Dominica releases findings of study on climate change and health vulnerability

ROSEAU, Dominica, May 31, CMC – Dominica has released the findings of a study of climate change and health vulnerability and adaptation that it will use for the implementation of a climate resilient health system on the island.

Health Minister Dr. Kenneth Darroux, speaking at the ceremony that coincided with the two-day “2016 Wet / Hurricane Season Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF) that ends here Tuesday, said that the as the world population grows the impact of weather and climate on health becomes more apparent with populations facing the consequences of global warming and the resulting climate impact.

He quoted the World Health Organization (WHO) as estimating that there are an additional 140,000 deaths annually as a consequence of climate variability and change.

“We are witnesses to the growing health impact of climate variability and change. The region is challenged by new and re-emerging diseases threatening to overwhelm health systems, small economies and the health of our populations as a result.

“The impact of the 2013-2014 Chickungunya outbreaks has not yet been fully understood and estimated and we are already facing a new threat, the dreaded Zika virus….yet another mosquito borne disease,” he said.

Darroux said that ddisaster events like Tropical Storm Erica that hit the island last August and the consequences on the economy and health of the population are expected to increase reversing the developments that small countries like Dominica and the rest of the region have made to improve the lives and health of the populations.

“We lament the fact that as countries which do not contribute to the warming effect, yet still we are the most vulnerable and are already feeling the full wrath of this phenomenon, which experts have coined as the “single most deadly threat to human existence”.

“Small islands will be disproportionately impacted due to the size, fragility of our economies and our inability to adapt as a result of the lack of resources.  Much of our population is located along the coast making us vulnerable to the impact of sea level rise and coastal erosion and the human health consequences as a result.”

He said that climate change puts at risk the determinants of health through its effects on the basic human health requirements; clean air, safe water sufficient food, safe shelter and reduced pests infestation.

“We have an interest to face up to these challenges confronting our country and to put adequate mechanisms in place to monitor its progress and develop adaptation measures to reduce its effects.

Climate change will make it more difficult to control diseases, because of its direct effects on the health sector and also because more and more resources that otherwise would have been invested in developing the various sectors, including health, now have to be spent in clean up and rebuilding after these erratic weather events,” he said, adding “and because protecting human health is the Ministry of Health’s ultimate objective, this makes climate change my newest enemy and I have vowed to do all that is humanly possible to join the fight against climate change”.

Darroux said that providing a greater understanding of this phenomenon is the first step in the strategy to develop adaptation measures to build resilience in the health sector.

He said the climate and health vulnerability and adaptation assessment is the cornerstone for mainstreaming climate change adaptation in the health sector and that recommendations stemming out of the assessment will form the basis for a National Adaptation Plan for Health and will drive the adaptation strategy in Dominica.

“The study has put into focus the overwhelming vulnerabilities of the local population to the impact of climate on vector borne diseases, food safety and security and water quality and the necessity to build adaptation measures into health program planning and implementation. It draws on the need to be climate smart when building health systems and providing health services,” he said.

According to the recommendations, Dominica can increase its resilience to the health impacts of climate change by taking adaptation actions to lessen future impacts, take advantage of opportunities and manage the consequences of growing risks from climate hazards.

The study recommends that the Ministry of Health and Environment here develop a Climate Change and Health Adaptation Action Plan to mobilize individuals and communities within the country in efforts to plan for climate change impacts as well as develop early warning systems for climate sensitive health risks utilizing forcast information from key partners.

It also calls for increased knowledge of the impacts of climate on vector-borne, waterborne and foodborne diseases and on food insecurity through the collection and analyses of weather, vector and epidemiology data.