Pacific nations face significant human health threat from climate change: WHO

A Sri Lankan traditional stilt fisherman gets ready for the day's catch.
A Sri Lankan traditional stilt fisherman gets ready for the day's catch.Image: Shutterstock

The pacific island nations are the most vulnerable to human-induced climate change with tangible associated health affects already posing a challenge for the ill-equipped regional health systems, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.

These include the increasing incidence of food-borne, water-borne and vector-borne diseases such as Dengue Fever which is currently ravaging the pacific, to more serious health impacts of heat and natural disasters.

As such, health considerations must be incorporated into national policies and plans relevant to climate change as the globe begins to implement reforms to meet the Paris climate agreement targets, the World Health Organisation’s Human Health and Climate Change in the Pacific Island Countries report released on Tuesday shows.

“Climate change is a major challenge of our and could prove to be the most significant human health threat of the 21st century,” WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, Dr Shin Young-soo said in a statement.

“Coordinated efforts of many different sectors are urgently needed to build resilience to climate change in the Pacific.”

The WHO has been working with pacific island nations since 2010 to develop health adaptation plans to combat climate change associated impacts, gaining a competitive advantage in climate mitigation through the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

However, adaptation at the national level requires cross-sectoral collaboration bringing together governments, international agencies, NGOs and communities to address climate change’s health impacts, WHO Division of Pacific Technical Support environmental health specialist Dr Rokho Kim said.

“Another way of putting this is to seek a health-in-all policies approach,” Kim said.

The report scientifically analysed the impact of climate change on health and adaptation strategies and evidence-based policy options for 13 Pacific island countries in an attempt to avoid the most serious health impacts of climate change. 

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