Global warming may trigger more diseases

Variations in temperature, alteration in rainfall patterns conducive to mosquitoes

The recently released report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) - ‘The State of World Population 2009’  states that more people will suffer from malaria as the temperature is conducive to mosquitoes. Dengue fever and various tick-borne diseases would either increase or shift in prevalence among various regions owing to variations in temperature and alteration in rainfall patterns.

In fact, the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment report reveals diarrhoeal diseases, common among children in poor countries, is likely to go up by five per cent by 2020.

The report highlights that the recorded natural disasters have doubled over the last two decades. Seven out of very 10 disasters are attributed to climate change. The number of people affected by natural disasters has also tripled over the last decade, with an average of 211 million people directly affected each year.

From 1998 to 2007, 2.2 billion people were affected by climate disasters compared to 1.8 billion in the 10 previous years. In addition to this, the statistic of those displaced by environmental change is estimated to be 25 million.

Women more susceptible

Women die in greater numbers in any natural disasters than men. And, they tend to die at a younger age. However, only a few reliable data to document this exists because the international community has not yet focused on the gender impact of natural disasters, the report stressed. However, localised case studies on 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh, the 2003 European heat wave and the 2004 Asian Tsunami affirm this fact.

Economists Eric Neumayer and Thomas Plumper, who sampled data from natural disasters in 141 countries between 1981 and 2002, feel natural disasters on an average kill more women than men or kill them younger.

For instance, many women died during the 2004 tsunami as they were in their homes, unaware of what was to come. Some women were weighed down by their saris and drowned, while others had never been encouraged to learn swimming despite residing next to water.

Furthermore, even if the women survive the calamity, they would often miss out on relief assistance as most government offices have men occupying the top posts. Looking at this gender bias, women at the grassroot level have taken proactive steps by participating in reconstruction programmes.

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