09 April 2008

Asia will bear brunt of climate change-linked deaths: WHO

AFP - 7 April 2008
Original URL

MANILA (AFP) — More than half the annual estimated 150,000 deaths linked to climate change will come from the Asia-Pacific region, officials at the World Health Organisation said Monday.

Most of the fatalities will be the result of a greater incidence of diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea and malnutrition, as well as and flooding due to changing weather patterns.

Shigeru Omi, WHO director for the Western Pacific region based in Manila, said "the impact of climate change will be felt more in developing countries," which have fewer resources to deal with it.

Unlike other health crises, like bird flu, which can be alleviated, "it is inevitable climate change will get worse for some time," Omi said.

He cited evidence that malaria was now appearing in areas such as the highlands of Papua New Guinea, which were once considered too cold for mosquitoes that spread the disease.

Global warming had also caused ocean levels to rise, already causing sea water to seep into ground water of Pacific island nations like Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands.

Omi said climate change was causing seasonal changes to be more erratic, making it harder to predict planting seasons as well as flooding and droughts, leading to more deaths.

He conceded that it was difficult to separate climate change from other causes of health problems like increased human migration, which spread diseases to new areas.

WHO regional adviser Hisashi Ogawa said global warming might cause fewer deaths from cold and freezing but this would easily be offset by the greater mortality due to other reasons.

The WHO, which came up with the estimate of 150,000 deaths, has allocated 10 million dollars to study the effects of climate change on health and how to deal with it, Omi said.

Copyright © 2008 AFP

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