Measures to cope with health challenges resulting from climate change were endorsed on Wednesday by member-nations of the World Health Organisation’s Southeast Asia committee.
Meeting in the capital of Maldives, representatives of health ministries in the 11 countries signed the Male Declaration, which commits members to prepare for and deal with impacts on public health stemming from climate change.
The agreement is non-binding, however.
The committee, abbreviated as WHO Searo, was holding its 70th session. The members are Maldives, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, Timor-Leste and North Korea.
Dr Thamarangsi Thaksaphon, the committee’s director for Noncommunicable Diseases and Environmental Health, said the declaration encourages member-nations to put in place prevention-and-preparation measures for health challenges expected to become more common and intensify as global temperatures rise.
Thamarangsi explained that hotter climate would help extend the range of some tropical diseases, such as malaria and dengue, into higher attitudes and cooler regions.
The health hazards anticipated include a higher mortality rate related to heat stress, more diarrheal diseases, respiratory illnesses and malnutrition, and greater chance of injury as natural disasters become more frequent.
He said the Male Declaration could help bring about “climate-resilient health improvements” by making the regional healthcare system better prepared to manage new threats.
It also encourages member-countries to share information and learn from each other.