Kingston Jamaica, 9 October 2019 (PAHO/WHO) – Ministries of health from the Caribbean met in Jamaica this week with experts from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to support country efforts to develop and fund climate change-resilient health systems.
The meeting “Project Concepts on Health and Climate Change”, which took place from 7-8 October in Kingston, Jamaica, responds to the need to train health officials in the Caribbean on aspects of resource mobilization for health adaptation to climate change.
Regarding climate-resilient health systems, the Jamaican Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton, emphasized that there is a lot that can be done to develop projects that minimize the impacts of extreme weather events, highlighting the urgent need to scale-up funding for health. “If we anticipate the worst, we are on solid ground to save lives,” he said.
The meeting, which took place just one month after Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas, responds to the need for increased funding highlighted by countries during the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Third Global Conference on Climate and Health with a special focus on small island developing states, which took place in Grenada last year.
There, countries signed the “Caribbean Action Plan on Health and Climate Change.” The Plan serves as a roadmap to ensure that health is front and center of national climate change planning in the region. It focuses on protecting the health of Caribbean populations from the effects of climate change, such as heatwaves, storms, hurricanes, droughts, floods, outbreaks of disease, and other issues, by strengthening health systems, promoting intersectoral collaboration between health and the environment sectors, and increasing financing.
“It is vital that climate change funds are channeled to ensure that the health sector is better able to cope with increased climate change events,” said Marcelo Korc, Chief of the Climate Change and Environmental Determinants of Health Unit at PAHO. Korc also highlighted that the funds should be directed towards a variety of initiatives including improving infrastructure and developing early warning systems for climate-sensitive diseases.
According to Johanna Wegerdt, Health and Wellbeing specialist for the Green Climate Fund, which co-organized the meeting with PAHO, the training provided will enable Caribbean health systems to develop more ambitious projects and start to implement a “health in all projects approach.”
During the two-day meeting, staff from the ministries of health will be provided with training to strengthen technical capacities for the preparation, management and implementation of multi-country project proposals on health and climate change. These proposals will then be submitted to the Green Climate Fund and other funding and technical agencies.
Climate Change and Small Island States
Many small island states in the Caribbean are already seeing an increase in climate-change related events, including high burdens of climate-sensitive diseases such as vector-, food-, and water-borne diseases; more frequent and severe extreme weather events; and rising sea levels.
During PAHO’s 57th Directing Council last week, Bahamian Minister of Health, Duane Sands, urged fellow health leaders from throughout the Americas to take urgent action on climate change. “We must do all that we can to mitigate the global effects of warming our planet while we have the time to do so,” he said.