Saturday, December 29, 2007

Indonesian government hopes to tackle disease with sanitation

Jakarta Post (Indonesia): The government has acknowledged that extreme weather is behind rising numbers of vector-borne human disease cases including malaria, dengue fever, diarrhea and cholera. But a government mitigation effort blueprint has yet to specify strategies for coping with the outbreaks that are becoming more frequent across the archipelago.

It says the government will conduct more public campaigns to promote a healthy environment and prevent climate-linked disease. "With a healthy sanitation system, diseases like malaria, dengue fever and diarrhea, that spread through the air, can be minimized," the action plan says. The government plan also covers research on illness caused by warmer temperatures and development of drugs for the so-called climate-change diseases, using local raw materials.

The government also plans to improve disease surveillance and develop early warning systems for weather-related disasters so people can be prepared for the health consequences.

The state ministry of environment has predicted the outbreak of malaria, dengue fever and diarrhea diseases will worsen due to climate change. By 2070 annual cases of malaria per 10,000 people will be 20 percent higher than in 1989 when there were 2,705 cases, a ministry report predicts. Dengue fever, in 2070, will be at 26 cases per 10,000 people while in 1989 there were only six. Diarrhea cases in that year are predicted to be 934, triple the 311 cases recorded in 1989.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said climate change was estimated to be responsible for approximately 2.4 percent of worldwide diarrhea, six percent of malaria and seven percent of dengue fever in some industrialized countries. It said that cholera and other water-borne diseases are on the rise in coastal countries and may be related to declining water quality, climate and algal blooms.

Climate experts said that higher temperature would be more pronounced in large cities because of urban heat island effects. The direct health impact of higher temperatures on human health is heat stroke mortality, especially for older age groups.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- the United Nation's global body for assessing scientific knowledge on climate change -- predicted that by 2100 the global temperature could rise by between 1.1 and 6.4 degrees of Celsius, compared to the 1990 level. An IPCC report on human development launched on the sidelines of the Bali climate conference says rising temperatures and more droughts will leave up to 600 million people facing malnutrition.

A United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report says about 1.8 billion people may face serious water shortages by 2080. It said up to 332 million people in coastal and low lying areas could be displaced by flooding and tropical storms.

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