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Promoting Good Governance.

Climate Change: People’s health needs urgent protection — WHO’s report

Mainstream health in climate processes to access funds, it urges

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PROTECTING the health of human beings from climate change impacts is more urgent than ever, a new World Health Organisation report noted.

The new report that drew data from 101 countries, including Nigeria, and published on Tuesday noted that most countries were not implementing their national plans to help to safeguard citizens health against the effects of climate change. 

Titled Health and Climate Change Survey Report, it stated that lack of prioritisation, human resource constraints, poor financing among the countries are barriers to achieve health protection.

Health is among the five sectors most often described as vulnerable to climate change. But this has not resulted in the necessary level of implementation and support, the report noted.

It also stated that nine per cent of the countries channelled resources to implement their action plan completely.

While there are international funds available for countries to fight climate change, the survey found that countries have difficulties in accessing international climate finance to protect the health of their people.

More than 50 per cent of the countries reported lack capacity in preparing proposals, over 75 per cent lack information on opportunities to access climate finance.

And over 60 per cent, a lack of connection of health actors to the climate finance processes stunt care of the health of citizens.

“Mainstreaming health in national and international climate processes could help access the necessary funds,” it noted.

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Of the 101 surveyed countries, 37 countries are currently accessing international climate finance.

“It is a moral imperative that countries have the resources they need to act against climate change and safeguard health now and in the future,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization.

He said the price of climate change is momentarily being paid by people’s health.

The climate-sensitive health risks were identified as heat stress and injury or death from extreme weather events. Food, water and vector-borne diseases like cholera, dengue or malaria are also health risks associated with climate change.

The report surveyed 101 countries across the six regions with 13 from Africa, 27 from Americas and eight from South-East Asia Region. 20, 17 and 16 countries were selected from European, Western Pacific and Easter Meditarean Regions respectively.

As reductions in air pollution alone could save about a million lives a year, the report revealed that less than 25 per cent of countries have clear collaborations between health and the key sectors driving climate change and air pollution; transportation, electricity generation and household energy.

 “The health gains that would result from cutting carbon emissions are rarely reflected in national climate commitments,” it added.

For the Paris Agreement that countries committed to in 2015 be effective to protect people’s health, Maria Neira, Climate Change and Health expert at WHO, said all levels of government need to prioritise building health system resilience to climate change.

“By systematically including health in Nationally Determined Contributions – as well as National Adaptation Plans, climate finance pledges, and other National Communications to the UNFCCC — the Paris Agreement could become the strongest international health agreement of the century,” she said.

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