Climate change threat to health

Dr Josephine Herman chats with Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete during a break at the Pacifi c Health Governance Research Network Workshop at the Tanoa International Hotel in Nadi. Picture: BALJEET SINGH

CLIMATE change has already begun affecting human health.

This was the observation made by Minister for Health Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete while speaking at the Pacific Health Governance Research Network meeting in Nadi yesterday.

Dr Waqainabete said in 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that climate change had been responsible for 140,000 deaths.

“Conservative estimates suggest that climate change will cause some 250,000 additional deaths per year before the middle of this century,” he said.

“The poorest and most vulnerable populations in low-income countries, particularly children and older people, are among those most at risk.”

With climate change being one of the most important topics up for discussion at the meeting, Dr Waqainabete said the Western Pacific region was especially vulnerable to climate change.

“The impact is not limited to climate sensitive diseases.

“It is expected to affect a wide range of environmental and social determinants of health including heatwaves, rising sea levels and other extreme weather events contributing to a series of challenges ranging from food security to a scarcity of drinking water and increases in communicable and respiratory diseases.

“Health, therefore, must be mainstreamed into efforts to address climate change, and action must be co-ordinated and integrated across national boundaries and in all sectors.”

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