WHO spotlights the health cost of climate change

Photo by WorldIslandInfo.comWHO spotlights the health cost of climate change

“Climate change will affect all countries of our Region. We are aware that the impacts on human health will be very significant”.

- Dr Samlee Plianbangchang, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region

New Delhi, April 7, 2008 - On the occasion of World Health Day 2008, Dr Samlee Plianbangchang, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, highlighted six health outcomes that will be directly impacted by climate change in South-East Asia. WHO is moving health to the centre of the climate change dialogue and has made the protection of health from the effects of climate change the theme of this year’s World Health Day.

Dr Plianbangchang emphasized the “serious and damaging effects” of climate change on human health. “Air quality will suffer greatly and respiratory illnesses will be exacerbated. Heat waves will be more intense and of longer duration, mainly affecting the most vulnerable populations in children and elderly through heat strokes and cardiovascular complications” he stated.

The six health outcomes which are likely to be affected by climate change in the Region are: respiratory diseases, vector-borne diseases (malaria and dengue), water-borne diseases (diarrohea and cholera), malnutrition, injuries and psychosocial stress. Urgent action is needed to strengthen the existing health systems to deal with the potential increase in health risks due to climate change.

According to the UN Inter governmental panel on climate change (IPCC), the Himalayas will experience a rapid glacier melt with a rate of recession greater than anywhere else in the world. Melting glaciers and disturbed rainfall patterns will increase floods, landslides, debris flows and droughts. This will increase the health risks in Bhutan, India and Nepal among other countries.

In Bangladesh, production of rice and wheat might drop by 8% and 32%, respectively, by the year 2050. For India, recent studies predict a 2-5% decrease in yield potential of wheat and maize for a temperature rise of 0.5 to 1.5C. The net cereal production in South-East Asian countries is projected to decline by at least 4 to 10% by the end of this century under the most conservative climate change scenario.

The most vulnerable people in the Region will be the poor, because they have fewer resources to adapt to the rapid changes of the natural environment on which their livelihoods depend.

For more information please contact:

Ms Vismita Gupta-Smith, Public Information and Advocacy Officer, WHO South-East Asia Regional Office (SEARO), New Delhi, Tel: 91-11-23309401 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              91-11-23309401      end_of_the_skype_highlighting, e-mail: guptasmithv@searo.who.int ;

For more information please visit our website: www.searo.who.int.

Bobby Ramakant-CNS