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Global warming poses grave health threat to Asia Pacific
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Global warming is expected to pose grave challenges to Asia Pacific region in years to come, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official warned Tuesday.

In his final address to the Regional Committee, WHO Western Pacific Regional Director Dr Shigeru Omi said climate change would expand the range of mosquitoes that carry malaria and dengue to areas other than their natural Southeast Asia habitat.

He said that some low-lying island states in the Pacific were at risk from rising ocean levels, while heat waves and droughts elsewhere were among the many factors contributing to the global food crisis.

In a wide-ranging valedictory address at the WHO Regional Office here to Health Ministers and senior officials from the 37 countries and regions that make up WHO's Western Pacific Region, Dr Omi, who will step down early next year after serving 10 years on the post, said significant progress had been made on a number of health fronts, including the fight against communicable diseases.

He said, for instance, the number of daily deaths from tuberculosis in the Region has dropped from 1,000 to 600 as a result of a non-stop battle against the disease.

Tobacco control, fight against HIV/AIDS, measles and maternal mortality are singled out by Dr. Omi as fields where impressive progress had been made.

He said, however, much work remains to be done on issues such as health care financing and building up human resources and the preparation for averse effects of climate change.

"I must be honest. We have not been as successful in this area as we have with communicable diseases," he said.

In an address that ranged across his 10 years in office, Dr. Omi said that the most difficult decision he had been involved in was the issuing of travel advisories against a number of countries and areas at the height of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) threat in 2003.

"SARS awakened the global public health community from a kind of slumber," Dr Omi said.

The Regional Committee for the Western Pacific on Monday nominated Dr. Shin Young-Soo of the Republic of Korea as Dr. Omi's successor. He is expected to take over the regional top post on Feb. 1, 2009.

(Xinhua News Agency September 24, 2008)

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