Caribbean Ministers approve plan to prepare for the health impact of climate change

(PAHO / WHO) — Ministers from across the Region of the Caribbean have agreed on an Action Plan to ensure that the health of those living in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is protected and prioritized within the global climate change agenda.

The III Global Conference on Health and Climate: Special Focus on Small Island Developing States, convened jointly by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and hosted by the Government of Grenada, took place on 16 and 17 October in St George’s, Grenada.

“The effects of what is around us and how we’ve treated our own environment are being seen every day,” said Hon Keith Mitchell. “As leaders we have a responsibility for a future generation. We have to protect this earth for them. Placing this issue at the top of the agenda is crucial.”

This sentiment was echoed by Ministers throughout the Region, who highlighted that despite being among the nations least responsible for climate change in terms of Greenhouse Gases, it is the Small Island States that are already seeing the most adverse effects.

Many SIDS 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.

The agreed Action Plan establishes a variety of recommendations in order to ensure that their specific needs are taken into consideration.

These include the development of mechanisms to ensure that SIDS are fully engaged in global-level climate change processes and agreements; that technical cooperation methods are strengthened; and that SIDS are able to access the human, technical and financial resources necessary to address the affects of climate change on health.

Throughout the Conference, ministers emphasized that while Small Island Developing States may have struggled to compete with the voices and resources of larger nations, their commitment to work together and collaborate on issues of health and climate change will help tp ensure they are listened to at a global level.

The Conference formed part of the WHO Initiative on Climate Change and Health in Small Island Developing States, which aims to provide national health authorities in SIDS with the political, technical and financial support to better understand and address the effects of climate change on health.