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Climate change affects health in Indonesia

The Jakarta Post
Tommy Dharmawan

Climate change is responsible for 2.4 percent of all cases of diarrhea worldwide and for 2 percent of all cases of malaria, according to the WHO.

Moreover, an estimated 150,000 deaths and 5.5 million “disability-adjusted life years” were recorded in 2000 due to climate change. “There is growing evidence that changes in global climate will have profound effects on the health and well-being of citizens in countries throughout the world.

One of the affects of climate change is global warming. In Europe this past summer, for example, an estimated 20,000 people died due to extremely hot temperatures.

Climate change automatically has an impact on the spread of disease in Indonesia — as seen in a malaria epidemic in Papua and pestilence epidemic in Pasuruan, East Java, in 1997 and dengue fever outbreaks in almost every Indonesian province in 1998 due to the El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation.

Scientist Amin Subandrio estimated that 35 new infectious diseases have appeared due to climate change. He also said that climate change has made humans more vulnerable to disease and also increased the incidence of airborne and waterborne disease. Degenerative and infectious diseases are more likely to afflict not only babies and the elderly, but also people who are undernourished and live in unhealthy environments.

In addition, WHO stated that global warming has also triggered allergic and respiratory diseases.

“Heatwaves increase particles and dust in the air, while increases in sea water levels can cause flooding and abrasions, especially in coastal areas, and pollute hygienic water sources,” it said. The other effect is an increase of cholera and malaria, especially in poor countries.

Potential risks to human health from climate change arise from increased exposure to thermal extremes (cardiovascular and respiratory mortality) and from increases in weather disasters (including deaths and injuries associated with disaster).

Other risks may arise because of the changing dynamics of disease vectors such as malaria and dengue fever, including the seasonality and incidence of various food-related and waterborne infections; a reduction in crop yields; an increase in plant and livestock pests and pathogens; increased salinization of coastal lands and freshwater supplies resulting from rising sea-levels; climatically related production of photochemical air pollutants, spores and pollens; and the risk of conflict over depleted natural resources.

The effects of climate change on human health can be expected to be mediated by complex interactions of physical, ecological and social factors. These effects will undoubtedly have a greater impact on societies or individuals with scarce resources, where technology is lacking and where infrastructure and institutions such as the health sector are least able to adapt.

For this reason, a better understanding of the role of the socioeconomic and technological factors that shape and mitigate these impacts is essential. Because of this complexity, current estimates of the potential health impacts of climate change are based on models with considerable uncertainty.

Adverse health outcomes are associated with the ingestion of unsafe water, lack of access to water (linked to inadequate hygiene), lack of access to sanitation, contact with unsafe water, and inadequate management of water resources and systems, including in agriculture. Infectious diarrhea makes the largest single contribution to the burden of disease associated with unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene.

Global warming seriously affects human health. The government, especially the Health Ministry, must take action to anticipate the effects of climate change on health because it directly affects the transmission of diseases. The challenge today is to handle the effects that have already appeared while taking measures to prevent more severe climate change effects in the future.

Efforts should include the dissemination of regulations on energy consumption and environmental conservation as well as preparing action plans to prevent epidemics. Of equal importance is the promotion of a healthy environment and disease control management. Indonesia can begin by taking measures to improve its health system regulations in provinces and by simplifying coordination between central and provincial governments.

In the short term, the government must strengthen collaboration between agencies related to climate change impact mitigation and also strive to increase public awareness about climate change effect to human’s health.

In long term, the government needs to do research for the sake of climate monitoring, develop a climate change response plan and develop a surveillance capacity that spans health and environment issues. It is time for Indonesia to take action to face climate change and move towards a green and healthy Indonesia.

The writer graduated from the University of Indonesia’s School of Medicine and lives in Jakarta.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.


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