Explainer: How climate change is making the world sick

3 months ago 251

DUBAI - Heat stress. Lung damage from wildfire smoke. The spread of disease-carrying mosquitoes into new regions as temperatures rise.

These are just a few of the ways that public health has been impacted and compounded by climate change - a focus for the first time ever at the annual U.N. climate summit COP28.

Government ministers are expected to discuss ways they can protect people from climate-driven health threats, which now threaten to undo decades of progress in public health.

From 2030, experts expect that just four of these threats - malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress - will push global death tolls up by 250,000 per year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

"Extreme weather events are becoming extreme health events," said Martin Edlund, CEO of global health nonprofit Malaria No More.

Here's how climate change is harming people's health across the world today, and what countries might expect in the future.

VECTOR-BORNE DISEASES

Mosquitoes that carry viruses including dengue, malaria, West Nile and Zika are shifting into new parts of the world as warmer temperatures and heavy rains create more hospitable conditions for them to breed.

Reported dengue cases have grown from around half a million in 2000 to more than 5 million in 2019, according to the WHO.

Just this year, cases in Brazil are up 73% against the five-year average, said Edlund, with Bangladesh suffering a record dengue outbreak.

Climate change is also having an unpredictable impact on malaria, with 5 million more cases registered in 2022 than the previous year - reaching a total of 249 million, the WHO's World Malaria Report found.

Floods in Pakistan last year, for example, led to a 400%increase in malaria cases in the country, the report said.

The disease has also spread into the highlands of Africa that previously had been cold for mosquitoes.

Two new malaria vaccines expected to be available next year offer some hope of combating the scourge.

MURKY WATERS

Storms and flooding wrought by climate change are allowing other infectious water-borne diseases to proliferate as well.

After decades of progress against cholera, an intestinal infection spread by contaminated food and water, case numbers are rising again, including in countries that had all but extirpated the disease.

Without treatment, cholera...

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