CLIMATE CHANGE AND HEALTH
Climate change linked to deaths in
9 July, 2007:
Climate change directly or indirectly
contributes to about 77,000 deaths
annually in Asia and the Pacific,
according to a recent study by the
World Health Organisation (WHO).
The World Health Organisation
estimates that climate change has
already – directly or indirectly –
killed over 1 million people globally
since 2000. More than half of those
deaths have occurred in the
Asia-Pacific, the world’s most
Those figures do not include deaths
linked to urban air pollution, which
kills about 800,000 people worldwide
Dr Kevin Palmer, WHO representative to
Samoa, a group of islands in the South
Pacific Ocean, says that while the
figure for the Pacific itself could
not be obtained, the total figure for
the Asia-Pacific region is a major
cause for concern.
Major changes related to climate
change such as the gradual
disappearance of atolls do contribute
to health problems, Dr Palmer said.
The mosquito population in the region
is on the increase and so is the
prevalence of malaria.
Dr Shigeru Omi, World Health
Organisation’s regional director for
the Western Pacific, had warned
recently: “We have now reached a
critical stage in which global warming
has already seriously impacted lives
and health, and this problem will pose
an even greater threat to mankind in
coming decades if we fail to act now.”
Among the potential effects of global
warming would be the appearance of
mosquitoes where they were previously
absent, with the accompanying threat
of malaria and dengue fever, according
to the World Health Organisation.
Some regions might be at risk of
reduced rainfall, causing a shortage
of fresh water and consequent danger
of water-borne diseases.
According to the World Health
Organisation, millions of people could
be at risk of malnutrition and hunger
if arable lands become unworkable.
Rising temperatures are contributing
to more landslides in Nepal, dengue
fever cases in Indonesia and flooding
in India, threatening to put an even
greater strain on health systems
across the Asia-Pacific region.
Scientists have predicted that
droughts will lower crop yields and
raise malnutrition in some areas, dust
storms and wildfires will boost
respiratory illnesses, and flooding
from severe storms will increase
deaths by drowning, injuries and
diseases such as diarrhoea.
Rising temperatures could lead to the
growth of more harmful algae that can
sicken people who eat shellfish and
reef fish. People living in low-lying
coastal areas will also face more
storms, flooding, and intrusion of
saltwater into fresh groundwater.
Health officials from over a dozen
countries in the region met in Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 3, 2007, to
outline the health problems the
countries are experiencing related to
climate change. They discussed ways to
work together to limit the impact in a
region expected to be hit hard by
flooding, drought, heat waves, and
mosquito- and water-borne diseases.