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WHO: Climate Change Threatens Millions

Regional World Health Organization Director Shigeru Omi gestures as he talks to reporters at the WHO headquarters in suburban Manila, Philippines, Monday, April 7, 2008. Millions of Asians could face poverty, disease and hunger as a result of rising temperatures and increased rainfall that are expected to hit hardest poor countries with overburdened health systems, the WHO warned. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

A Warning From the World Health Organization (WHO)

Millions of people could face poverty, disease and hunger as a result of rising temperatures and changing rainfall expected to hit poor countries the hardest, the World Health Organization warned Monday. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes represent the clearest sign that global warming has begun to impact human health. They are now found in cooler climates such as South Korea and the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Warmer weather means that mosquitoes' breeding cycles are shortening, allowing them to multiply at a much faster rate, posing an even greater threat of disease. The exceptionally high number cases in Asia of dengue fever, which is also spread by mosquitoes, could be due to rising temperatures and rainfall. "The effects of this phenomenon on the global climate system could be abrupt or even irreversible, sparing no country and causing more frequent and more intense heat waves, rain storms, tropical cyclones and surges in sea level." Unusual, unexpected climate patterns — too much rain or too little — will have an impact on food production, especially irrigated crops such as rice, and can cause unemployment, economic upheavals and political unrest. As people move, so do diseases, and there has been an unprecedented level of human migration. Governments need to strengthen current systems providing clean water, immunizations, disease surveillance, mosquito control and disaster preparedness.

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