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Climate Change-related Health Impacts in the Hindu Kush–Himalayas

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Our goal was to identify the climate change-related health risks and vulnerable populations specific to the mountainous regions of the Hindu Kush–Himalayas. We reviewed published information of the likely health consequences of climate change in mountain regions, especially the findings of a workshop for countries in the Hindu Kush–Himalaya region, organized by the World Health Organization, World Meteorological Organization, United Nations Environment Programme, and United Nations Development Programme. The main climate-related risks in the Hindu Kush–Himalaya region include the expansion of vector-borne diseases as pathogens take advantage of new habitats in altitudes that were formerly unsuitable. Diarrheal diseases could become more prevalent with changes in freshwater quality and availability. More extreme rainfall events are likely to increase the number of floods and landslides with consequent death and injuries. A unique risk is sudden floods from high glacier lakes, which cause substantial destruction and loss of life. Because glaciers are the main source of freshwater for upland regions and downstream countries, the long-term reduction in annual glacier snowmelt is expected to heighten existing water insecurity in these areas. Climate change also is bringing some benefits to mountain populations, including milder winters and longer growing seasons. Populations in mountain regions have unique combinations of vulnerabilities to climate change. The extent of the health impacts experienced will depend on the effectiveness of public health efforts to identify and implement low-cost preparedness and response measures, and on the speed at which emissions of greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced.

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We gratefully acknowledge the participants in the inter-regional workshop on human health impacts from climate variability and change in the Hindu Kush–Himalaya region. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the World Health Organization.

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Correspondence to Kristie L. Ebi.

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Ebi, K.L., Woodruff, R., von Hildebrand, A. et al. Climate Change-related Health Impacts in the Hindu Kush–Himalayas. EcoHealth 4, 264–270 (2007).

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