Worldwide adaptations: Human health
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Professor Iain Stewart explains how adaptation to health impacts is likely to be most essential in developing countries, where negative climate impacts are expected to be most severe. Many of the world’s poorest people could find that climate change exacerbates existing health problems, such as cholera and malnutrition. But improving disease management and providing food and clean water supplies could help communities cope.
Scientists are concerned that diseases such as malaria and dengue fever may spread to new areas as warmer temperatures improve breeding conditions for the mosquitoes that carry them. Monitoring mosquito populations and forecasting where they are likely to appear could be an important tool in fighting these diseases. Predicting outbreaks allows communities to prepare for them before they get out of hand. One such example is the Malaria Early Warning System (MEWS) in Southern Africa. MEWS constantly monitors the spread of disease and weather conditions to predict where new outbreaks might occur. Affected areas are warned of impending outbreaks through the media so they can exercise the necessary precautions beforehand.
Many rural communities in the developing world don’t have running water. So local populations need to collect water and store it for later use. Storage containers provide the perfect breeding grounds for disease-carrying mosquitoes. As global temperatures rise, breeding conditions are likely to get even better, increasing the risk of infectious diseases. Chemical pesticides and sealed containers may help keep mosquito populations down. But in Vietnam people have introduced a crustacean native to the area into infected water. The crustacean feeds on the mosquito larvae, destroying their population. Local techniques like this could play a vital role in protecting populations against disease-carrying mosquitoes as global temperatures rise.