Skip to content Skip to cookie consent
Tearfund home

Dying to adapt

New report: Surviving the climate crisis could force African countries to divert billions from healthcare annually

18 Jul 2022

  • African countries are expected to spend up to five times more on climate adaptation than on healthcare
  • The 11 countries analysed will need to spend an average 8% of GDP on climate adaptation - among the highest in the world
  • These countries are some of the least responsible for the climate crisis - they emit 27 times less carbon than the global average
  • Adapting to the climate crisis could come at the expense of crucial public services, Tearfund warns

African countries could face climate adaptation costs that are up to five times higher than their current healthcare budgets, according to new analysis from the international relief and development agency Tearfund. The analysis of 11 sub-Saharan African countries, with a total population of more than 350 million people, shows that predicted costs to adapt to the climate crisis are expected to far outstrip their national spend on healthcare.

The new report, Dying To Adapt, compares country climate and adaptation plans against current healthcare budgets in 11 countries: Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Eritrea, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania and Sudan.

The countries make up more than a third of sub-Saharan Africa’s population and are some of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world. On average, these countries would have to spend eight per cent of their GDP, or USD 1.44 billion,  to adapt to intensifying climate impacts – among the highest spending proportionally in the world. Yet on average they emit 27 times less per person than the global average.

For example, the expected climate adaptation costs for Eritrea are 22.7% of its current GDP, while national healthcare costs account for 4.46% of GDP. Mauritania will need to spend almost four times as much on climate adaptation as it does on healthcare: 13.4% of GDP on adaptation against 3.3% on health.

At the same time, it is estimated that low-income countries are currently receiving as little as one tenth of what they need for adaptation from international climate finance. This is money that leaders of wealthy nations promised to deliver from 2020 onwards but which they have so far failed to deliver. 

Droughts such as the one affecting East Africa in 2022 are becoming more frequent and severe as a result of the climate crisis. Four years of failed harvests have left millions of people on the brink of famine. Against the global backdrop of recovery from the pandemic, and rising energy and food prices, adapting to the climate crisis is adding another huge financial burden to frontline communities.

Elizabeth Myendo, Disaster Management Lead for Southern and East Africa at Tearfund (based in Nairobi), said:

“The hunger crisis in East Africa has shown the terrible power of the climate emergency. Acute malnutrition and lack of clean water is putting intolerable strain on hospitals and clinics. Entire communities have been forced to leave their homes in search of food, leaving them more vulnerable to disease outbreaks and unable to access local health services. It’s not surprising that health systems can’t cope with the effects of the worst drought in a generation. But the climate crisis will only worsen and governments will have to find the money somewhere to help people adapt. I fear that crucial services like healthcare will suffer unless rich countries deliver the climate finance they promised.”

Hebdavi Muhindo, DRC Country Director at Tearfund, said: 

“The back-to-back crises of Ebola and Covid-19 have had a devastating impact on the healthcare system in the DRC, stretching budgets that are already unfit for purpose and leading to the neglect of other health priorities, including maternity and children’s care. And now the government has to spend more and more money to cope with changing weather patterns and failed crops. There’s a fear that adapting to the climate emergency will come at the expense of public services like healthcare. That is a terrible price to pay for a crisis we did not cause.”




Share this page

Share this page to spread the word and help support those in need.

Get our email updates

Learn about our work and stay in touch with Tearfund. Hear about our news, activities and appeals by email.

Sign up now - Get our email updates

Cookie preferences

Your privacy and peace of mind are important to us. We are committed to keeping your data safe. We only collect data from people for specific purposes and once that purpose has finished, we won’t hold on to the data.

For further information, including a full list of individual cookies, please see our privacy policy.

  • These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

  • These cookies allow us to measure and improve the performance of our site. All information these cookies collect is anonymous.

  • These allow for a more personalised experience. For example, they can remember the region you are in, as well as your accessibility settings.

  • These cookies help us to make our adverts personalised to you and allow us to measure the effectiveness of our campaigns.