Climate change impacts on infectious diseases in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East (EMME)—risks and recommendations
The Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East (EMME) region has rapid population growth, large differences in socio-economic levels between developed and developing countries, migration, increased water demand, and ecosystems degradation. The region is experiencing a significant warming trend with longer and warmer summers, increased frequency and severity of heat waves, and a drier climate. While climate change plays an important role in contributing to political instability in the region through displacement of people, food insecurity, and increased violence, it also increases the risks of vector-, water-, and food-borne diseases. Poorer and less educated people, young children and the elderly, migrants, and those with long-term health problems are at highest risk. A result of the inequalities among EMME countries is an inconsistency in the availability of reliable evidence about the impacts on infectious diseases. To help address this gap, a search of the literature was conducted as a basis for related recommended responses and suggested actions for preparedness and prevention. Since climate change already impacts the health of vulnerable populations in the EMME and will have a greater impact in future years, risk assessment and timely design and implementation of health preparedness and adaptation strategies are essential. Joint national and cross-border infectious diseases management systems for more effective preparedness and prevention are needed, supported by interventions that improve the environment. Without such cooperation and effective interventions, climate change will lead to an increasing morbidity and mortality in the EMME from infectious diseases, with a higher risk for the most vulnerable populations.