This unique initiative involves government, civil society and international organizations
Bridgetown, Barbados, December 1, 2020 (OPS) – International, regional and government leaders have announced the launch of a broad project to support actions to mitigate climate change and its severe health effects in Caribbean countries . The EU/CARIFORUM project to strengthen climate-resilient health systems – a joint European Union and CARIFORUM project coordinated by PAHO – will advance public understanding of the effects of climate change and build the capacity of health systems. to respond to climate-related health impacts.
“We are at a crucial moment in the Americas where we must increase our solidarity and our intergovernmental collaboration to address climate issues, which are arguably the health challenges of the century,” said PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne. “The Americas must embrace mechanisms for countries to come together around climate change.”
“The project supports a cadre of emerging climate and health leaders,” continued Etienne. “It promotes evidence of the often hidden health co-benefits of climate action and supports the implementation of health-related plans and resources for mitigation and adaptation for health.”
She said the EU/CARIFORUM project on climate change and health will also help countries in the region to access funding to address climate change.
Tuesday’s virtual meeting brought together key government and partner organization representatives from the €6.85 million (US$8.28 million) project, including Etienne, Irwin LaRocque, CARICOM Secretary General and Co-Chair of the CARIFORUM, Dr. Irving McIntyre, Minister of Health of Dominica, and Malgorzata Wasilewska, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Barbados, Eastern Caribbean States, OECS and CARICOM/CARIFORUM. Project partners also include Caribbean universities and regional climate, public health and agriculture agencies and organizations.
Beneficiary countries are Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
“WHO says that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause around 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress,” LaRocque said. “The direct cost to health is estimated at between $2 billion and $4 billion per year by 2030. It is telling that areas with weak health infrastructure, mainly in developing countries, will be the least able to do face unaided to prepare and react.
He said that to respond to climate change, member states must have access to concessional development finance, or subsidized loans, with more generous terms than market loans. He added that funding should be based on the Universal Vulnerability Index, which measures people’s exposure to hazards.
Etienne said PAHO would also try to help Caribbean countries obtain financial assistance. She said PAHO will do this through the Green Climate Fund, which was created to help developing countries respond to climate change.
Wasilewska affirmed the commitment of the European Union to partner with regional agencies. “The European Union is privileged to continue its partnership with an esteemed group of regional agencies that draws on a diverse portfolio of programs to support progress in the health and climate sectors.”
McIntyre said his country has felt the effects of climate change first hand and therefore aims to become the first climate resilient country in the region by 2030.
“As we call on developed countries to change their ways, we are doing what we can to build our country’s resilience,” he said. “The government of Dominica has directed investments towards economic transition and recovery efforts. We are well on our way to achieving resilience in terms of infrastructure, economic and fiscal policies, and resilience in our health and education system.
He highlighted his country’s key actions such as the formalization of Dominica’s Climate Resilience Executing Agency, which took place shortly after Hurricane Maria. The agency strives to embed resilience into all aspects of society. He also highlighted the island’s 7 megawatt geothermal power plant and the Building Back Better initiative to help residents rehabilitate, rebuild or design homes that are both energy efficient and resilient, the 2019 plastic ban and the SMART Hospital program, which focuses on improving hospital resilience. The hospital project was funded by the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office and led by PAHO.