Climate crisis creates a health crisis, WHO reports « Khabarhub
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Climate crisis creates a health crisis, WHO reports

08 June 2024  

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Scientific evidence documented in a series of articles presented by the World Health Organization this week highlights the harmful impact of climate change at key stages of the human life cycle.

“These provide important scientific evidence on how the health of pregnant women, newborns, children, adolescents and older people is affected by air pollution and different climate hazards, including wildfires, flooding and extreme heat,” Anayda Portela, director of the WHO’s department of maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and aging, said at a briefing Friday for journalists in Geneva.

“This evidence is critically important, because it shows the leading health risks for each of these groups for these different climate events,” Portela said.

She noted that the collection of articles published in the Journal of Global Health shows that climate-related health risks “have been crucially underestimated” for younger and older people and during pregnancy, “with serious, often life-threatening implications.”

The studies find that climate-related natural hazards have some “serious mental and physical health impacts” in pregnancy, and for younger and older people.

For example, the authors note that preterm births, which now are the leading cause of childhood deaths, “increase during heatwaves, while older people are more likely to suffer heart attacks or respiratory distress.”

They report that heatwaves also “affect cognitive function and therefore learning for children and adolescents.”

The World Meteorological Organization’s State of Global Climate report confirms 2023 as the hottest year on record and predicts that global temperatures over “the entire five-year 2024-2028 period will exceed 1.5 degrees centigrade above the pre-industrial era,” which scientists warn could lead to rapid and irreversible changes in the climate.

According to the World Health Organization, between 2030 and 2050, climate change is projected to cause approximately “250,000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress alone.”

Portela also warned that air pollution increases the likelihood of high blood pressure during pregnancy, low birth weight, preterm birth and negative impacts on fetal brain and lung development.

“It raises risk of respiratory illness among children and older people,” she said, adding that they also face greater risks of “cancer, cardiovascular disease and pneumonia.”

The studies detail the many noxious effects on mental and physical well-being from climate-related natural disasters, including flooding and drought, as well as wildfires, which have been shown to increase respiratory disorders and cardiovascular mortality rates for older people.

“There is an urgent need to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to build climate resilience, to take specific actions that protect health at these various life stages,” Portela said.

Authors of the reports note that “few climate adaptation measures are tailored for the specific needs of women, infants, children and adolescents,” as well as older people who may have mobility and cognitive constraints.

Nevertheless, the WHO urges governments to prioritize climate change as a health issue, pointing out several specific actions they can take to promote and protect health at different life stages.

For example, this could include flexibility around work hours, preparing childcare and educational systems for extreme weather events and rising temperatures, and informing people and communities about various measures that can protect vulnerable people during heatwaves and periods of worsening air pollution.


Publish Date : 08 June 2024 21:16 PM

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