October 12, 2010



Loss of glaciers and reductions in snow cover are projected to increase and to negatively affect water availability for more than one-sixth of the world’s population supplied by meltwater from mountain ranges. Weather extremes, such as drought and flooding, will also impact on water supplies. Climate change will thus exacerbate existing stresses on water resources and compound the problem of access to safe drinking water, currently denied to an estimated 1.1 billion people globally and a major cause of morbidity and disease. In this regard, climate change interacts with a range of other causes of water stress, such as population growth, environmental degradation, poor water management, poverty and inequality.


Climate change is projected to affect the health status of millions of people, including through increases in malnutrition, increased diseases and injury due to extreme weather events, and an increased burden of diarrhoeal, cardio-respiratory and infectious diseases. Global warming may also affect the spread of malaria and other vector borne diseases in some parts of the world. Overall, the negative health effects will disproportionately be felt in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. Poor health and malnutrition increases vulnerability and reduces the capacity of individuals and groups to adapt to climate change.

Climate change constitutes a severe additional stress to health systems worldwide, prompting the Special Rapporteur on the right to health to warn that a failure of the international community to confront the health threats posed by global warming will endanger the lives of millions of people. Most at risk are those individuals and communities with a low adaptive capacity. Conversely, addressing poor health is one central aspect of reducing vulnerability to the effects of climate change.

Non-climate related factors, such as education, health care, public health initiatives, are critical in determining how global warming will affect the health of populations. Protecting the right to health in the face of climate change will require comprehensive measures, including mitigating the adverse impacts of global warming on underlying determinants of health and giving priority to protecting vulnerable individuals and communities.


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