Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The biggest health threat from climate change? Hunger.

Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are largely unprepared for climate change. Droughts and flooding have already taken a toll on crops and experts say to expect more in the future. With climate change destroying the food, that means there could be less to feed the people in the effected areas.

From Reuters Alert Net, writer Laurie Goering attended a World Health Organization briefing on the subject.

“No one will ever die with a death certificate saying they died of climate change,” so assessing the number of climate-linked deaths will be difficult, epidemiologist Kris Ebi warned during a recent World Health Organization (WHO) briefing on adapting health systems to climate shifts.
But malnutrition is already an underlying cause of about half of 9 million annual child deaths. And with 85 percent of the health impacts of climate change estimated to hit children, they will be “highly vulnerable”, said Ebi, a lead author of the human health section of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report.
The two areas of the world likely to suffer the greatest health risks linked with climate change are sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, IPCC studies suggest. Both are already grappling with malnutrition, in particular, and could see agriculture suffer from climate extremes, health experts say.
But governments and health services in these regions are not the only ones who need to act. “Every country is going to be affected,” Ebi said. “There is no country that is not going to see some health impacts from climate change.”

Solomon Nzioka, a doctor in the WHO’s Kenya office, cited last year’s drought in East Africa, which led to tens of thousands of deaths in southern Somalia before aid arrived, as an example of the health and malnutrition challenges ahead.
Kenya’s health service also is struggling to cope with new disease challenges, such as dengue fever, he said.
After this year’s long rains, from March to May, doctors saw a rise in what they thought were malaria cases. But the initial diagnoses proved wrong, and blood tests showed the outbreak was dengue, a surprise for health workers, Nzioka said.

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