A special initiative to protect people living in Small Island Developing States, including Samoa, from the heath impacts of climate change was launched yesterday.
The announcement has been made by the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The initiative aims to help Small Island Developing States with health systems that are resilient to climate change by 2030.
It also focuses on reducing carbon emissions both to protect the most vulnerable from climate risks and deliver large health benefits in carbon-emitting countries.
Mr. Ghebreyesus said the first main goal was to amplify the voices of health leaders in Small Island Developing States so they could have more impact at home and internationally.
“Second is to gather the evidence to support the business case for investment in climate change and health.”
“Third is to promote policies that improve preparedness and prevention, including ‘climate proof’ health systems.”
“Fourth is to triple the level of international financial support to climate and health in small island developing states.”
He added people living in Small Island Developing States were on the frontline of extreme weather events, rising sea levels and increased risk of infectious disease.
“We owe it to these people to do everything we can to help them prepare for the future that is already washing up on their shores.”
During the press conference, Fiji Prime Minister and C.O.P. 23 President Voreqe Bainimarama said Fiji knew all too well that climate change posed a serious threat to the health of our people.
“I’m delighted that we are launching this initiative - in partnership with the W.H.O. and U.N.F.C.C.C, to better equip small island states like ours with the knowledge, resources and technology to increase the resilience of their health systems, as part of larger efforts to adapt to climate change.”
Executive Secretary of U.N. Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa pointed out that climate change would increasingly impact the health and well-being of people everywhere unless nations fully implemented the Paris Agreement.
“Small islands are in the frontline from extreme weather events that can contaminate drinking water to health-hazardous heatwaves and the spread of infectious diseases.”
“This initiative can strengthen the response of small islands to the rising risks as the world works to ensure that together we keep a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius and better, no higher than 1.5 degrees,” she said.
The S.I.D.S. have long been recognized as most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change and the issue is highlighted in the U.N.F.C.C.C, by Ministers of Health at the 2008 World Health Assembly and in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Dr. Joy St John, recently appointed Assistant Director-General for Climate and Other Determinants of Health at W.H.O, said they had also pioneered innovative approaches to improve the resilience of their health systems to climate change.
“As well as emitting a small proportion of the greenhouse gases that are driving climate change, many are further reducing their already low carbon emissions.”
“Small Island Developing States are ready to take leadership towards green, resilient and health-promoting national development but the support of the international community is essential.”
“Less than 1.5 percent of international finance for climate change adaptation is allocated to projects which ensure that the health of all people is preserved, and only a fraction of this supports Small Island Developing States.”
“The recent severe weather events in the Caribbean demonstrate that targeted interventions are important. We need to do much more and we need to act very quickly,” said Dr. John.
He further indicated that country ownership was a central principle of this initiative.
“Ministers of health from some of the most affected countries have already started to provide input through consultation with W.H.O.’s Director-General and at W.H.O. Regional Committee meetings and this process will continue.”
“Since 2015, W.H.O. has been working with the U.N.F.C.C.C. secretariat to develop detailed country profiles to assess risks, and provide tailored advice on how these countries can adapt to, and mitigate the health effects of climate change.”
“More than 45 country profiles have already been completed and as part of this initiative, W.H.O. commits to publishing a country profile for all small island developing states by the end of 2018.”
“Many national health actors, development and United Nations agencies are already making important contributions to protect health in small island developing states.”
“W.H.O.’s initiative aims to bring together existing and new efforts and scale them up so they achieve maximum impact.”