Climate change poses “abrupt” threat to public health
8 April 2008
GENEVA – Climate change would endanger public health, exacerbate existing problems and pose a new strain on already overstretched resources, said the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday.
WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan said: "The warming of the planet will be gradual, but the effects of extreme weather events – more storms, floods, droughts and heat waves – will be abrupt and acutely felt."
The WHO chose to highlight the impact of global warming to mark the annual World Health Day. World Heath Day is celebrated on 7 April.
Climate-sensitive diseases have already killed millions, it said. These include malnutrition (3.5 million deaths per year), diarrheal diseases (1.8 million), and malaria (almost 1 million).
Changes in weather patterns were already providing examples of the challenges public health would have to confront on a large scale. An estimated 70,000 people died during the European heat wave of 2003 while outbreaks of diseases linked to rain or temperature risked increasing.
In the last 30 years, for example, warmer temperatures had created more favourable conditions for mosquito populations increasing the transmission of malaria.
"Although climate change is a global phenomenon, its consequences will not be evenly distributed," said Chan. "In short, climate change can affect problems that are already huge, largely concentrated in the developing world, and difficult to control."
In readiness, the WHO was stepping up its efforts to address the health effects of climate change by coordinating and supporting research, and advising member states on adapting their care systems to protect their populations.
[dpa / Expatica]