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Associated Press

WHO: 77,000 Die Annually in Asia-Pacific from Climate Change


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - International experts will meet next month to discuss the threat to health posed by global warming, which directly or indirectly contributes to about 77,000 deaths annually in Asia-Pacific, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

The July 2-5 meeting in Malaysia's main city Kuala Lumpur comes amid forecasts that the global mean temperature will increase by as much as 6 degrees Celsius (42.80 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.0628 06

"We have now reached a critical stage in which global warming has already seriously impacted lives and health, and this problem will pose an even greater threat to mankind in coming decades if we fail to act now," Shigeru Omi, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, was quoted as saying in the statement.

A recent WHO study estimated that climate change, directly or indirectly, contributes to about 77,000 deaths annually in Asia and the Pacific - about half of the world total attributed to global warming.

Among the potential effects of global warming would be the appearance of mosquitoes where they were previously absent, with the accompanying threat of malaria and dengue fever.

Some regions might be at risk of reduced rainfall, causing a shortage of fresh water and introducing the danger of waterborne diseases. Millions of people could be at risk of malnutrition and hunger if arable lands become unworkable.

Delegates will also be told that the increasing frequency of summer heat waves in temperate zones, and typhoons, hurricanes and floods throughout the world are signs of changing weather and climate patterns.

The conference, being organized by the WHO, will be attended by representatives of 14 countries, as well as by WHO partners in the environmental field.

Key findings from this workshop will be shared at a ministerial meeting in Bangkok on Aug. 8-9, attended by ministers of health and environment from 14 countries in the Southeast and East Asia regions.

© 2007 The Associated Press.

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