Special Issue

Climate change and oncology nursing: the African perspective

9 Nov 2023
Vera Larfi Samba, Esubalew Mezgebu, Habtamu Habtes, Naomi Ohene Oti, Bilonda Michou Mangongolo, Ritah Bafumba, Kathryn Burns, Maria Fernanda Olarte Sierra, Julia Challinor, Martjie de Villiers

Climate change is impacting the lives of millions around the world and exacerbating existing challenges in healthcare globally. Although Africa contributes only 2%–3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it suffers a disproportionate share of the environmental impact. High-income countries dominate the global discourse on climate change, while their continued utilisation of extractive policies exacerbates climate hazards and impacts economies in regions not responsible for the damage. Cancer is on the rise and constitutes a significant public health burden in low- and middle-income countries, yet little is known about the impact of climate change on oncology nursing on the African continent. To address the ways that climate change is exacerbating existing challenges and adding new difficulties for oncology care, it is essential that the expertise of professionals working in settings that are most impacted by the threats of climate change is amplified if climate crisis risks are to be effectively mitigated. Seven African oncology nurses from across sub-Saharan Africa were reflexively interviewed by voice over internet protocol (VOIP) in English to learn about their understanding of climate change and experiences with its impact on nursing care. Using a conceptual framework to map the impact of climate change on health and considering the vulnerability and social capacity of patients with cancer, our findings show how existing challenges to oncology nursing care are exacerbated by climate change on the continent. Food insecurity, national economic dependency on the agricultural sector, economic inequality, social vulnerability and isolation, transportation challenges, and the immunocompromised status of patients with cancer are all key concerns for oncology nurses in this context. We also present the nurses’ specific recommendations for governments, hospital authorities, and oncology nurses regarding climate change mitigation, adaptation, and event response strategies. With this work, we aim to lay a foundation for further investigation and action to mitigate the oncoming challenges of climate disaster for oncology nurses across sub-Saharan Africa and the patients and families they care for.

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