Kenyan scientist says climate change partly to blame for rise in non-communicable diseases

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NAIROBI, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- Kenya's rising burden of non-communicable diseases like cancers, diabetes and cardiovascular ailments is partly being fueled by climate change, a scientist said at a forum in Nairobi on Tuesday.

Gerald Yonga, chair of Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance, East African chapter said that extreme weather events coupled with physical inactivity and poor dietary habits, are to blame for a spike in lifestyle diseases in Kenya.

"Climate change and environmental pollution are to blame for an increase in non-communicable diseases in Kenya as revealed by a series of evidence-based research," said Yonga.

He made the remarks during the inaugural health, environment and climate change conference underway in Nairobi and attended by policymakers and researchers to discuss health impacts of a rapidly warming planet on Kenyan communities.

According to Yonga, a combination of behavioral and environmental factors account for nearly 80 percent of non-communicable diseases in Kenya and neighboring countries.

"Some of the negative impacts of climate change like acute droughts or freezing temperatures can be attributed to a rise in neurological disorders, high blood pressure and upper respiratory infections that include asthma," said Yonga.

He said that uncontrolled emission of greenhouse gases like black carbon and methane could expose low income urban and rural populations to lung cancers.

Yonga said that negative consequences of rapid urbanization that include physical inactivity and higher consumption of processed food has increased the vulnerability of a younger population to cancer and diabetes.

"The urban infrastructure, in particular, has not been friendly to physical activity that includes cycling and jogging hence exposing an otherwise youthful population to premature deaths linked to diabetes or cardiovascular diseases," said Yonga.

He said that industrial pollution and lethargic management of waste in urban centers are closely linked to the surge in non-communicable diseases in Kenya.

Yonga said that investments in clean energy and campaigns to promote organic diets and physical exercises are key to reduce the burden of lifestyle diseases in the East Africa's largest economy. Enditem

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