RISING temperatures are expected to have a huge impact on the health of people in the Asia-Pacific region, causing spikes in everything from dengue fever to food poisoning, scientists said yesterday.
Delegates to a conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, painted a bleak future for the health of those living in the worldâ€™s most populous region if steps are not taken now to address climate change.
Scientists said drought would lead to lower crop yields and higher malnutrition in some areas; dust storms and wildfires would boost respiratory illnesses; and flooding from severe storms would increase injuries, drownings and disease.
â€œWe have now reached a critical stage at which global warming has already seriously impacted the lives and health of the people,â€ said Shigeru Omi, director of the World Health Organizationâ€™s Western Pacific region.
â€œThis problem will pose an even greater threat to mankind in coming decades if we fail to act now,â€ Omi said.
Conference delegates from 16 countries said it is important for policy makers to understand the link between greenhouse gas emissions and health.
They called on countries to devote more resources to address health issues already plaguing the region to help lessen the blow as the effects of climate change become more dire. Tax incentives and pricing policies were encouraged to get companies to become more environmentally friendly.
The Asia-Pacific region already is feeling the effects of global warming, with climate change directly or indirectly linked to some 77,000 deaths each year in the region – about half the global total of deaths blamed on climate change, according to the WHO.
Those figures do not include deaths linked to air pollution.
In Singapore, the city-state has seen a correlation between rising temperatures and the number of dengue fever cases reported, with mean annual temperatures climbing from 26.9 degrees Celsius in 1978 to 28.4 degrees Celsius 20 years later. Dengue fever cases jumped tenfold during that time, he said.
In addition, malaria has recently reached Bhutan and new areas in Papua New Guinea for the first time. In the past, mosquitoes that spread the disease were unable to breed in the cooler climates there, but warmer temperatures have allowed dengue to flourish.