By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Weather and environmental anomalies resulting from climate change are taking their toll on the health of people in the Pacific island region, which suffers from poor healthcare systems.
"Health impacts caused by climate change include death, illness and injuries caused by extreme weather events, heat stress, waterborne and foodborne diseases, malnutrition, and the negative mental health impacts of people facing disasters or being displaced from their homes," WHO said in a press release.
The organization noted that supercharged storms and rising sea levels are threatening fragile healthcare facilities at the time they are needed most.
“All of us living here in the Pacific know that climate change is real. We are already seeing its impacts in our daily lives,” said Dr Mark Jacobs, WHO representative to the South Pacific and director of Pacific Technical Support.
Jacobs said every individual can participate in countering the climate change crisis.
“We can make small changes like choosing to walk more often and leave the car at home," Jacobs said.
WHO’s Division of Pacific Technical Support has launched a new toolkit ahead of COP28 containing arguments and evidence that health leaders, health workers and ordinary citizens in Pacific island countries can use to support their climate advocacy.
"We can support those working in the most polluting sectors to make changes in their work," Jacobs said. "Because if they make changes, it will have a big impact in lowering global carbon emissions. If they do that, everyone’s health will benefit.”
WHO said it is standing behind climate champions as they advocate for the urgent action needed to reduce emissions and stop temperatures from rising.
World leaders, scientists, United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and advocates are set to converge in Dubai from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 for COP28, the UN Climate Change Conference.
"While there is space for those working in health to lower their own emissions (it is estimated that the health sector is responsible for 5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally), the causes of the negative health impacts of climate change are largely driven by the choices and actions of other parts of government, business and society," WHO said. "However, that also means that these sectors can play a major role in saving lives and protecting health."
WHO suggested that transport agencies make significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by promoting more sustainable forms of transport such as walking, cycling and greener public transport.
"At the same time, this would go a long way towards preventing the up to 5 million deaths a year that could be averted if the global population was more physically active," WHO said.
"Similarly, if those making decisions on the provision of electricity switch to renewable sources like wind and solar, it will result in a significant reduction in air pollution – which causes 7 million deaths per year – and limit the global increase in temperature," the organization added.
“There are a lot of win-win situations like this that we need to bring more attention to,” Jacobs said. “And, right now, people are looking at and listening to the Pacific on what needs to be done about the climate crisis. So, let’s all of us here in the Pacific use this as a moment to call for action that will save lives, protect our well-being, and protect our planet for our children and grandchildren.”
At COP28, WHO and the Wellcome Trust will host the Health Pavilion, a hub for daily discussions on climate change and health.
The organization will also support the first-ever dedicated Health Day, bringing health and environment ministers together on 3 December. In the Pacific, WHO is supporting ministries of health to strengthen the environmental sustainability and resilience of their health facilities, thanks to funding from partners including the Global Environment Facility, the Green Climate Fund, and the Korea International Cooperation Agency.