Climate change will aggravate Pakistan’s disease burden, warns Minister Mushahidullah Khan

Islamabad, May 10, 2015 (PPI-OT): Federal Minister for Climate Change, Senator Mushahidullah Khan, has warned that Pakistan’s disease burden and its overall impact on socio-economic development gains made in recent years will further escalate. This will lead to rise in avoidable deaths in coming years because of rapidly changing and erratic climate.

“Most of such deaths will be in urban areas like – among others – Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Peshawar, where living standard and health quality of the people are continuously falling, particularly increasing air and water pollution. Children and elderly people will be particularly at stake,” he highlighted.

Primarily fueled by increasing levels of carbon pollution, climate change poses a grave risk to the health and well-being of people, particularly in developing countries like Pakistan right from aggravating the risk of asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses/allergies to changing the spread of certain vector-borne diseases including Malaria, Dengue fever, he said in a news statement released on Sunday.

“The human health will particularly suffer from increasing ground-level ozone, which is a key component of smog. As average earth temperatures continue to rise, the amount of ozone tends to increase. The ozone, which is associated with the increased risk of premature death in adults and diminished lung function, would also lead to increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits for asthma, particularly in children,” Khan warned.

Although asthma occurs in almost all parts of the world regardless level of development, over 80 per cent of asthma-related deaths occur in low and middle-income countries like Pakistan, the federal minister Mushahidullah Khan pointed out.

He said that scientists have already projected that ozone concentrations in most of the urban centres across the world including Pakistan will increase because of climate change, swelling worldwide the number of ozone-related emergency room visits for asthma in the area by 7.3 percent— over 50 additional ozone-related emergency room visits per year in the 2020s as compared to the 1990s.

Over 14 million Pakistanis – more than majority of them children – are living with asthma, he said and expressed worry that the asthma cases are increasing by nearly 30 percent every year, according to the federal minister.

Senator Mushahidullah Khan highlighted that climate change has also caused rise in frost-free days and warmer air temperatures, as being witnessed in colder areas of Pakistan including Islamabad. These can, in turn, cause a greater production of plant-based allergens, he warned.

As different studies indicate, climate change will put vulnerable populations at increased risk – including the elderly, our children. Such risks will be graver for people already suffering from burdensome allergies, asthma and other illnesses, the minister said. In addition, children, who breathe more air relative to their size than adults, are also at higher risk of worsened asthma and respiratory symptoms from air pollution, he added.

Referring to WHO studies on climate change impacts on human health, Khan highlighted, “Pre-existing health conditions make older adults particularly vulnerable to the cardiac and respiratory impacts of air pollution. Higher rates of diabetes, obesity and asthma in some communities may place them at greater risk of climate-related health impacts.”

Rise in Heat-wave incidents

The climate change minister said that climate change is most likely to increase the number and severity of heat-wave incidents, which have shown increasing trends in incidents and intensity in recent years in the country.

Older individuals, with higher risk of dying during extreme heat events, would bear a disproportionate share of the impacts. Besides, heat-waves and other extreme weather events would disproportionately affect low-income communities and those in slum areas, he said.

While no single step can reverse the effects of health impacts of climate change, he emphasized and said, “We have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not irrevocably polluted and damaged.”

Mushahidullah Khan said that steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution, check environmental degradation, control air and water pollution, ensure proper waste management can help protect people’s health and slow the effects of climate change.

But achieving this is not possible without brining positive changes in our present living standards, which are major cause of environmental degradation and unsustainable use of depleting natural resources, he cautioned.

For more information, contact:
Muhammad Saleem
Deputy Director
Media and Communication
Ministry of Climate Change
Government of Pakistan
LG and RD Complex, G-5/2, ISLAMABAD
Ph: 051-9245565

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