Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Climate change 'linked to rise in disease outbreak'

NST Online
By : Annie Freeda Cruez

KUALA LUMPUR: A heat wave in 1998 caused the average daily death rate in Shanghai to rise three-fold; another heat wave in Tokyo in 2004 caused a three-fold increase in the number of hospital admissions; the rise in average temperature from 1978 to 1998 caused dengue cases in Singapore to rise by more than 10 fold.

Climate change and variability is linked to the death of more than 150,000 annually -- from malaria, diarrhoea and malnutrition. Half of these deaths occur in Asia. Despite these alarming World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, none of the 180 countries that attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, last year, indicated plans for the development of a policy to tackle problems posed by climate change, except Malaysia.

WHO representative for Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore Dr Han Tieru said as such, Malaysia could take the lead role in developing a National Climate Change Policy and National Environmental Health Strategic Plan for countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

In making this call in conjunction with World Health Day, Dr Tieru said: "We are aware that Malaysia is developing a comprehensive National Climate Change Policy and is in the process of drafting the National Environmental Health Strategic Plan."

Dr Tieru also said Malaysia had a good health infrastructure to handle crisis, emergencies and outbreaks.He said Malaysia should also conduct studies and compile statistics on climate change and its impact on people's health and lives.

Dr Tieru said Malaysia was seeing the impact of climate change on its citizens, especially the rise in cases of disease-carrying mos-quitoes and other illnesses due to floods.He said this year's World Health Day aimed to raise awareness and public understanding of the consequences of climate change.

The theme "Protecting health from climate change", he said, was designed to put health at the centre of government policies on global warming while encouraging individuals to take action to limit greenhouse gases.

"Many of the projected impacts on health are avoidable or controlled through well-known and tested public health interventions such as immunisation, disease surveillance, mosquito control and disaster preparedness."

He also said Malaysia's move to put graphic health warnings on cigarette packs should be emulated.

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