Climate change took centre stage at a recent joint event organised by the Ministry of Health, WHO and UNDP to discuss about building a resilient health system that can effectively deal with climate shocks.
Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Phouthone Moungpak said yesterday that climate change poses a risk to our development goals. We need to work with other sectors to mitigate the impact of climate change on the health system and to develop effective response to natural disasters.
WHO Representative to the Lao PDR, Dr Juliet Fleischl, said climate change is reshaping public health and is one of the defining issues for the 21st century. Many of us living in Laos have experienced the impacts of climate variability, especially from flash floods and droughts. These extreme weather conditions bring health challenges with increased outbreaks in waterborne and vector borne diseases, she said.
At the global level, Development Goal (SDG 13) emphasises the need for all countries to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Laos has also signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change which provides important leverage points for strengthening the work on health and the environment.
In Laos, a national climate change and health vulnerability assessment completed in 2011 concluded that waterborne diseases like dysentery and typhoid remain a significant source of morbidity and this health burden is expected to increase with climate change. Vector borne diseases, in particularly dengue cases, are also expected to increase.
The other potential impacts include injuries and possible death due to heatwaves, and other extreme weather events.
These weather conditions often result in agricultural losses, and the changing climate patterns will impact food security, which puts the most vulnerable rural populations at risk of undernutrition and malnutrition. Climate-sensitive health management and response plans are needed to support these communities living in vulnerable provinces, districts and villages.
Two areas for mitigation and adaption focused on increasing the resilience of public health infrastructure and water supply system to climate change, and improving public health services for climate change adaptation and coping with climate change induced impacts.
Recognising the limited awareness of health risks in relation to climate change among health workers, and insufficient data and monitoring of climate-sensitive health outcomes, WHO and UNDP are helping the government to develop the Global Environment Facility (GEF)project proposal that will focus on four main objectives.
The GEF project will advocate and raise awareness of climate change impacts on public health, strengthen partnerships among related sectors, and enhance scientific evidence collection and analysis to strengthen the health system in order to improve their resilience to climate shocks.
It will also cover gender mainstreaming, stakeholder involvement plan, monitoring and evaluation indicators, expected outputs and long term sustainability of the project. Health partners agree to mainstream resilience, adaptation and mitigation measures into health policies and plans.
UNDP Deputy Representative in Laos, Mr. Balasubramaniam Murali, repeated the need to strengthen the country’s resilience to climate change, saying The GEF project will support the country development goals and SDG 3, 5 and 13. UNDP will extend full support for the development and implementation of climate related strategies that are in line with the country’s priorities.
Long term solutions are required, including enhancing the capacity of national health systems and institutions to be able to respond effectively to climate change impacts on morbidity and mortality in vulnerable population groups.
Recognising climate change challenges is a start, but the long term goal is to build a resilient health system that is responsive to climate change.
Source: Vientiane Times