The WHO estimates that 23 per cent of all deaths around the world each year are due to avoidable environmental causes.
The health impacts of climate change are diverse and serious, including increasing animal-to-human viruses such as COVID-19, water- and vector-borne diseases, undernutrition, and the mental and physical effects of extreme weather and climate events, which also disrupt the delivery of health care services.
To support health systems in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries, the UNDP and WHO, with support from the GEF, are undertaking a six-country project (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal and Timor-Leste) titled ‘Building Resilience of Health Systems in Asian Least Developed Countries to Climate Change’.
The project is supporting climate-safe water supply systems in 18 urban towns, helping prevent the spread of waterborne illness, and supporting improvements in the national Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) standards for health care facilities.
The project is also supporting efforts to build the resilience of health care facilities to climate change through enhanced infection prevention and control measures, including through an early warning and response system for climate-sensitive diseases.
The Cambodian portion of the project involves a partnership with the Ministry of Health to undertake health national adaptation planning, update national and provincial vulnerability and adaptation assessments, and inaugurate new sites, where epidemiological surveillance and reporting tools are used to assess the incidence of dengue fever.
Raising prayer flags and strategic plans in Nepal: Temperatures in Nepal have been increasing in recent decades - with warming greatest in the mountain regions. With project support, Nepal’s Ministry of Health conducted an assessment, to identify climate-sensitive diseases in all three of the country’s geographical regions. The country has inaugurated four sites in three different ecological regions to implement a climate-informed Early Warning, Alert and Response Systems, including a pilot project for climate-sensitive disease surveillance.
Building on this work across Asia, work to establish a similar project is underway for the Pacific region, covering Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The Pacific component of the project straddles a huge swath of territory – Kiribati, for example, is made up of 33 islands scattered over 3.5 million square kilometres of ocean, spanning all four hemispheres. Approaching these countries by plane, after endless miles of rolling ocean, small land masses ringed with coral appear, often comprised of rafts of low-lying sand and coral soil with minimal elevation above the surrounding seas.
The struggle for human health requires planetary health. Understanding how climate change poses specific threats to population health and health systems, these multi-country projects are addressing specific needs by enhancing the capacity of health ministries to reduce risks and prevent climate change-related morbidity and mortality, especially related to water and vector-borne diseases.
Read the the full UNDP story: https://undp-climate.exposure.co/our-planet-ourselves