Health At High Risk From Climate Change

According to the World Health Organization, climate change has caused over a million deaths globally in the past eight years. Health Ministers attending the Sixty-second Session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia, resolved to urgently gear up health systems to protect human health from climate change.

“The poor are most vulnerable to climate change. Scarcity of drinking water will swell outbreaks of diarrhoeal disease and reduced food production will negate efforts to bring down malnutrition among poor children. Climate change will have dramatic cost implications for the health sector. Countries in South-East Asia need to take urgent action to prepare for the added disease burden,” said Dr. Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.

The direct consequences of climate change on health are severe. It can cause significant loss of life and widespread illness due to heat strokes and cardiovascular disorders; asthma and allergies; injuries, disability and drowning; water- and vector-borne diseases; and psychosocial stress. Coastal flooding due to sea level rise could trigger mass migrations, resulting in social conflicts, which would especially affect those with limited means to cope.

WHO has been working with Member States in the South-East Asia Region to strengthen health systems and health professional capacity, increase awareness and empower local communities to become resilient to health threats from climate change.

WHO’s Regional Committee for South-East Asia adopted a resolution aimed at strengthening national capacities to empower local communities to become more climate change resilient. The focus will be on increasing awareness and improving knowledge of health professionals (as well as professionals in other sectors) on the health consequences of climate change. For this, national authorities will introduce climate change and health dimensions into educational curricula at all levels, in particular in medical schools.

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