The Mediterranean Basin is undergoing a warming trend with longer and warmer summers, an increase in the frequency and the severity of heat waves, changes in precipitation patterns and a reduction in rainfall amounts. In this unique populated region, which is characterized by significant gaps in the socio-economic levels particularly between the North (Europe) and South (Africa), parallel with population growth and migration, increased water demand and forest fires risk – the vulnerability of the Mediterranean population to human health risks increases significantly.
Indeed, climatic changes impact the health of the Mediterranean population directly through extreme heat, drought or storms, or indirectly by changes in water availability, food provision and quality, air pollution and other stressors. The main health effects are related to extreme weather events (including extreme temperatures and floods), changes in the distribution of climate-sensitive diseases and changes in environmental and social conditions. The poorer countries, particularly in North Africa and the Levant, are at highest risk. Climate change affects the vulnerable sectors of the region, including an increasingly older population, with a larger percentage of those with chronic diseases, as well as poor people, which are therefore more susceptible to the effects of extreme temperatures. For those populations, a better surveillance and control systems are especially needed. In view of the climatic projections and the vulnerability of Mediterranean countries, climate change mitigation and adaptation become ever more imperative. It is important that prevention Health Action Plans will be implemented, particularly in those countries that currently have no prevention plans. Most adaptation measures are “win-win situation” from a health perspective, including reducing air pollution or providing shading solutions. Additionally, Mediterranean countries need to enhance cross-border collaboration, as adaptation to many of the health risks requires collaboration across borders and also across the different parts of the basin.