Several Countries across the world are prioritising public health measures to protect their people from climate impacts but several of the governments lack the required funds to take effective action, warned the World Health Organization (WHO).
In the 2021 WHO health and climate change global survey report, the WHO said that only around a quarter of the 95 countries covered in the study were fully able to implement national health and climate change plans or strategies. The UN agency came out with the report at the COP26 UN climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
WHO Director of Environment, Climate Change and Health Dr. Maria Neira noted that the survey highlighted the number of countries that are left unsupported and unprepared to deal with the health impacts of climate change. “We are here at COP26 to urge the world to better support countries in need, and to ensure that together we do a better job of protecting people from the biggest threat to human health we face today,” she said.
A CLEAR CASE
This is the second report and the first one was in 2019. Noting that healthy arguments for increased climate action are clear, she said that the most disadvantaged groups in society who are at greatest risk are ethnic minorities, displaced people, poor communities, women, older persons and children.
“Almost 80 per cent of deaths caused by air pollution could be avoided if current air pollution levels were reduced to the WHO Air Quality guidelines,” she said.
The WHO report notes that insufficient finance was the top most challenge that majority of the countries faced. Some 70 per cent have cited it as an obstacle, up from 56 per cent two years ago. Then there are human resource constraints, with about one third of countries identifying “lack of inter-sectoral collaboration” as a key barrier.
The report also mentions that COVID-19 has slowed progress towards addressing climate change as health, personnel and resources had to be diverted to the pandemic response, The WHO said the crisis continues to threaten efforts to plan and prepare for climate-related impacts to a health life. In the report, the UN Agency also mentions about positive developments, where they found three-quarters of countries surveyed have devised, or are devising, national health and climate change plans or strategies. It said that the challenge is now to remove the barriers that are preventing countries from finalizing and implementing plans, said Tara Neville, Technical Officer at the WHO Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health and lead author of the survey report. Around 85 per cent of countries now have a designated focal point responsible for health and climate change, located in their ministries. Additionally, ministries in 54 per cent have established related task forces, committees, or other “stakeholder mechanisms”. Meanwhile, about two-thirds of countries have conducted a climate change and health vulnerability and adaptation assessment, or have one underway.
- Approximately two thirds of surveyed countries (67%) conducted a climate change and health vulnerability and adaptation assessment or are currently undertaking one.
- Over three quarters of surveyed countries (77%) developed or are currently developing national health and climate change plans or strategies. However, implementation is impeded by insufficient financing, human resource constraints, and limited research, evidence, technologies and tools.
- About half of surveyed countries (52%) reported that COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on their work to protect health from climate change, diverting personnel and resources and slowing the implementation of protective measures.
- Just one third of country respondents (33%) have taken the opportunity to include climate change and health considerations in their plans for recovery from COVID-19 Progress in developing multisectoral collaboration on policies and programmes related to health and climate change
- Less than 10% of countries currently include weather and climate information in their surveillance systems for climate sensitive disease. Most commonly, countries have climate informed surveillance systems for vector borne, waterborne, airborne or respiratory diseases
- Only one third of surveyed countries have climate informed health early warning systems for heat-related illness (33%) or injury and mortality from extreme weather events (30%) despite strong evidence that these risks are increasing around the world
- A growing number of countries (27%) have conducted assessments of the climate resilience of their health care facilities
- Only a small proportion of ministries in low and lower middle income countries (28%) are currently receiving international funds to support climate change and healthwork. Access to international funds, including multilateral have significantly increased health considerations in their nationally determined contributions.