As nations gear up to tackle climate change as a key issue, the World Health Organization (WHO) has put out a list of 10 health threats the world is likely to face this year. From the outbreak of new diseases to environmental pollution, it appears humanity is headed for multiple uncertainties that demand immediate attention.
Here are the top 10 alarming issues raised by WHO:
FILE PHOTO Silhouette of children seen through a layer of dense fog on a cold, winter morning, in New Delhi, Sunday | Photo: PTIWHO sees air pollution as the greatest environmental risk to human health. It says that nine out of 10 people breathe polluted air on a daily basis. What's worse is that air pollution is a major contributor to climate change.
According to a study by Lancet Planetary Health, India alone has 14 of the 15 most polluted cities in the world. It says in 2017, 1.24 million Indians lost their lives to air pollution. Every year, a cloud of smog envelops the national capital and its neighbouring regions with no solution in sight.
WHO says that 70 per cent of worldwide deaths are caused by non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer, with low- and middle-income countries being more susceptible.
WHO associates the rise of such diseases with air pollution, smoking, consuming alcohol, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.
3. Global influenza pandemic
Photo: ShutterstockAre we ready to face the outbreak of a new disease? WHO ascertains that the world would face another influenza pandemic. This occurs when a new influenza virus hits the world and affects people who are not immune to it. What WHO has yet not found out is that when the pandemic will hit and how severe it will be.
4. Fragile and vulnerable settings
FILE PHOTO Newly arrived Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh. Photo: PTIOver 1.6 billion people or 22 per cent of the global population reside in places that lack basic hygiene and healthcare, according to WHO. Protracted crises such as drought, famine and population displacement hinder sustainable development goals, the WHO report adds. In recent times, the world has seen how the displacement of Rohingya refugees affected their health conditions, especially of children.
5. Antimicrobial resistance
Image: ShutterstockWhat if medicines stop healing us? WHO says antimicrobials — agents that kill microorganisms or stop their growth — might be running out of its juice. This is because bacterias, viruses and fungi and parasites are slowly becoming resistant to medication. "This threatens to send us back to a time when we were unable to easily treat infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, and salmonellosis," according to WHO.
Providing a case study, WHO said that in 2017, around 600,000 cases of tuberculosis were resistant to rifampicin drug, considered to be the most effective medicine in curing the disease.
6. Ebola and other high-threat pathogens
The Ebola outbreak in 2018 reportedly affected more than a million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. WHO says that the probability of a high-threat epidemic outbreak like Ebola, Zika or Nipah affecting a less-developed area is higher than it hitting a developed region. The health organisation fears a public health emergency with the lack of effective treatment.
7. Weak primary health care
FIle photoLow- or middle-income countries, such as Bangladesh and Afghanistan, fail to provide primary healthcare to their citizens. To fill this gap, WHO aims to revitalise primary healthcare in countries.
8. Vaccine hesitancy
Providing vaccination to every child in the world still seems a distant dream. Even though vaccination prevents two-three million deaths every year, people still 'choose' to avoid vaccines, according to WHO. Reasons vary from lack of confidence to inconvenience in accessing them. Even in the 21st century, cases of wild poliovirus are being reported, albeit scarcely, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Illustration: Ajay MohantyIndia is no alien to dengue. Every year, mostly during monsoon, the mosquito-borne disease affects millions of people in the country. WHO says that 20 per cent of severe dengue cases in the world ends up fatally. Last year, Bangladesh saw the highest number of deaths in two decades due to dengue, and 40 per cent of the world is at risk of dengue fever, according to WHO.
Photo: ShutterstockWhile the stigma around HIV might be fading, providing access to preventive measures is still a key problem. HIV still claims a million lives every year globally. Currently, around 37 million people are estimated to have HIV, according to WHO.