The third Global Health Conference on Health and Climate for Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) opened this morning at Westin Turtle Bay Resort and Spa, Balaclava. The Minister of Health and Quality of Life, Dr Anwar Husnoo; the World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative in Mauritius, Dr Laurant Musango, and other eminent personalities were present.
In his keynote address, Minister Husnoo pointed out that climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health namely clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. According to him SIDS are most vulnerable due to their small population, geographic isolation, high exposure to climate risks, and limited human and financial resources.
He lauded WHO for launching in 2017 a special initiative to protect people living in Small Island Developing States from the heath impacts of climate change. The vision is that, by 2030, all SIDS will have health systems that are resilient to climate change and countries around the world will be reducing their carbon emissions both to protect the most vulnerable from climate risks and deliver large health benefits in carbon-emitting countries.
Speaking about Mauritius, the Minister recalled that from 1950 to 2007, the temperature has increased from 0.74 to 1.2 degree Celsius. Summer temperatures, he pointed out, are also increasing rapidly adding that climate change increases the risks of promulgation of mosquito-related infectious diseases such as chikungunya, dengue, zika, and N1 flu. In the past eight years, a change in disease trends has been observed, with an increase in 50% in the number of upper tract infections, he said.
For his part the WHO Representative said that climate change is a reality among SIDS and that people living in these countries are on the frontline of extreme weather events, rising sea levels and increased risk of infectious disease. He cautioned the need to build a resilient health system. According to him, a multisectoral and coordinated approach is necessary since the problem needs to be addressed by all nations.
Dr Musango further stated that the WHO seeks to work closely with Member States, civil society and the private sector so as to achieve inclusive and sustainable development goals. WHO has been working with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat to develop detailed country profiles to assess risks, and provide tailored advice on how these countries can adapt to, and mitigate, the health effects of climate change. More than 45 country profiles have already been completed and, as part of this initiative, WHO commits to publishing a country profile for all small island developing states by the end of 2018.
The two-day conference is being attended by delegates from the nine SIDS countries namely Cabo Verde, Comoros, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Soa Tome & Principe, Seychelles, Timor-Leste and Reunion Island.
The objectives of the Conference are to take stock of the implementation of the WHO Health and Climate Change Global Agenda; launch the WHO Special SIDS Initiative and further consult with national and regional leaders and experts on its implementation priorities in the Pacific, in the Caribbean and in the Africa and South East Asia regions; and develop a regional implementation plan for the SIDS initiative.
The Global Conference will be an opportunity to align and integrate the goal and objectives of SIDS to adopt a concerted approach to the challenges of health and climate change.
Source: Government of Mauritius