The World Health Organization in Europe announced on Friday that the heat wave affecting Europe was responsible for 1,700 deaths in the Iberian Peninsula alone and called for joint efforts to tackle climate change.

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Contacted by AFP, the UN organization explains that this figure is a preliminary estimate based on data from national authorities.

The organization added that this figure “has already increased” and that “it will continue to increase in the days to come”.

According to the WHO, the true figure linked to the heat wave will not be known for weeks.

“Heat kills. In recent decades, hundreds of thousands of people have died from extreme heat during prolonged heat waves, often coinciding with wildfires,” WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge said in a statement.

“This year we have already witnessed over 1,700 unnecessary deaths during the current heatwave in Spain and Portugal alone,” he added.

Hans Kluge also said exposure to extreme temperatures “often exacerbates pre-existing health conditions” and noted that infants, children as well as the elderly are at particular risk.

He also highlighted the impact of the wildfires, insisting that we were only halfway through ‘this scorching summer season’.

“Ultimately, the events of this week once again underline the desperate need for pan-European action to effectively tackle climate change,” he added.

According to Hans Kluge, it is necessary that governments show will and direction in the implementation of the Paris Agreements, recalling that the members of WHO Europe, i.e. 53 countries, including several in Central Asia, “had already demonstrated that they could work together on urgent threats to global health” and that it “was time for us to do it again”.