The World Health Organisation and UN Climate Change have launched an initiative to protect residents of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) from the health impacts of climate change, the WHO Special Initiative to Address Climate Change Impacts on SIDS
The World Health Organisation and UN Climate Change have launched an initiative to protect residents of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) from the health impacts of climate change, the WHO Special Initiative to Address Climate Change Impacts on SIDS.
It was launched at the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) on November 12, 2017 in Bonn, Germany.
In partnership with the Fijian Presidency, the initiative envisions that by 2030 all SIDS will have health systems that prove resilient to climate change, and that other countries around the world will have reduced their carbon emissions both to create health benefits in their own country and to help protect more vulnerable nations from climate risks.
Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change Patricia Espinosa, at the initiative’s launch, listed many of the adverse effects faced by SIDS, including contamination of drinking water, health-hazardous heatwaves, and the spread of infectious diseases.
Four main goals have been approved for the initiative, the first of which is to promote the opinions of SIDS health leaders so that they can affect more change at home and internationally.
The second is to gather evidence that supports the role of investment in climate change and health.
The third goal is to establish policies that increase preparedness and prevention of climate change risks, including “climate-proof” health systems.
The initiative’s final goal is to triple the amount of international financial support given to SIDS regarding climate and health.
Country ownership has been highlighted as a central aim of the initiative, with Health Ministers from some of the most affected SIDS already starting to contribute through consultation with WHO at its Regional Committee meetings.
Since 2015, WHO has worked with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC) to create detailed country profiles in order to assess risks and provide tailored advice on how to mitigate the health impacts of climate change.
Over 45 profiles have been completed and WHO has committed to producing a profile for all SIDS by 2019.
Small Island Developing States’ particular vulnerability to climate change’s most adverse effects has been underlined by the UNFCCC, by Health Ministers at the 2008 World Health Assembly, and by the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Support from the international community is essential to enable sufficient national development and protection, said the Assistant Director-General for Climate and Other Determinants of Health at WHO, Dr Joy St John.
Currently, less than 1.5% of international finance for climate change adaptation is given to projects working towards the preservation of the health of all people, and a fraction of this reaches SIDS.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, said: “People living in Small Island Developing States are 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.”
Fijian Prime Minister and COP23 President Frank Bainimarama, said: “We in Fiji know all too well that climate change poses a serious threat to the health of our people.
“I'm delighted that we are launching this initiative – in partnership with the WHO and UNFCCC – 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.”
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