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Sri Lanka annual floods, droughts healthcare hit US$19 million: study

floods, Sri Lanka

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka spends US$ 19 million (approximately 3.4 billion rupees) annually on healthcare due to floods and droughts, a new research published on the Asian Development Review journal of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has found.

“Our estimates suggest that Sri Lanka spends at least 19 million US dollars per year on health-care costs associated with floods and droughts,” the journal article said.

“This cost is divided almost equally between the public and household sectors, with 83 percent of it spent on flood-related health care and the rest on drought-related health care.”

“The most obvious finding emerging from our analysis is that frequently occurring local floods and droughts appear to impose a significant health risk when individuals are directly exposed to these hazards, and that this exposure sometimes requires even higher hospitalization rates.”

Diana De Alwis and Ilan Noy, two economists at the Victoria University of Wellington, conducted the study titled ‘The Cost of Being Under the Weather- Droughts, Floods and Healthcare Costs in Sri Lanka’, relying on the 2012/13 National Income and Expenditure Survey and a national disaster database.

The Western and Central provinces bore the highest health burden from floods and droughts, followed by the Southern and North Western provinces.

The study noted that the annual cost only includes healthcare expenditure increases, and not productivity declines due to illnesses which may lead to reduced income generation.

Hospitalization among those directly affected by flooding increased by 4 percent, while even among the wider community, there was a 2 percent increase, the study found. Outpatient care grew by 1-4 percent in each district which was affected.

Inpatient care is on average about 3 times as costly as outpatient care.

The hospitalization and outpatient care rates may be underestimated, as the national surveys only ask if people received care at least once, and not how often, the research said.

Using shared or public toilets, well water and the spread of mosquitos increased the transmission of diseases following floods.

More infections also spread following droughts and floods in areas where artificial reservoirs were prevalent and interacted with water available for human consumption.

The research warned that Sri Lanka will increasingly face extreme weather events due to climate change, which will lead to a growing healthcare burden for the country.

The World Bank have warned that Sri Lanka is highly vulnerable to climate change, and the Climate Risk Index 2019 of Germanwatch said that Sri Lanka faces the second highest risk in the world.

In addition to healthcare costs, funds are also required for rehabilitation, as homes, crops and businesses are damaged due to flooding annually.

In 2016, there were 21 billion rupees in insurance claims due to flooding.

Climate change is expected to reduce Sri Lanka’s living standards and lower economic growth in the long-run, according to the World Bank.

Sri Lanka’s government had made better efforts to reduce damages from disasters in the 2017 and 2018 budgets, but has since reduced climate-related spending in order to reduce the budget deficit in a challenging fiscal situation, an economist said in April.

In June, the government sought a 310 million US dollar loan from the World Bank to reduce risks from flooding. (Colombo/25Sep/2019)

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