World Health Day 2008 focuses on global warming-related health risks [Archives:2008/1144/Local News]

April 7 2008

Hamed Thabet
SANA'A, April 6 ) The impact of climate change has become noticeable in Yemen, not only through seasonal modifications and increasing temperatures, but also through the increase of disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

This year, the April 7th celebration of World Health Day is concentrating on educating people around the globe about the increased risk of disease promulgation resulting from climate change.

According to the National Council for the Climate, there has been an increase in average temperatures in Sana'a over the last 20 years, though they do not have the exact percentage due to a lack of research. According to Dr. Ali Al-Mudhwahi, the Director General of Family Health in the Ministry of Public Health and Population, “Yemeni children are increasingly exposed to diseases such as diarrhea, malaria, and asthma because of the climate change.”

Scientific evidence points to the impending expansion of infectious diseases, as well as an increase in severe natural disasters including heat waves, floods and droughts, and rising shortages of food and clean water leading to population displacement. These consequences pose major challenges for all countries, particularly developing countries and people living in extreme poverty. Among the most immediately affected are poor women, children and the elderly.

Al-Mudhwahi explained that in Sana'a, where the weather is cooler than other areas in Yemen, malaria is uncommon. However, because of climate change in the coming years, Sana'a is predicted to become more like other, hotter-temperature cities in Yemen, causing more diseases to migrate to the city. The risk of infection is higher because of the country's weak infrastructure and lack of adequate sanitation facilities.

Climate-sensitive diseases are among the largest global killers. Diarrhea, malaria and protein-energy malnutrition alone caused more than 3.3 million deaths globally in 2002, with 29 percent of these deaths occurring in Africa. The average increase in the world's temperature as reported on the WHO's official website is 1.2 degrees centigrade.

Water scarcity encourages people to transport water from long distances and store supplies in their homes. This can increase the risk of household water contamination, causing illnesses. “With increasing temperature and scarcity of water