Caribbean countries are for the first time receiving significant funding and support from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) to prepare health Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessments (V&As), a key step in the development of Health National Adaptation Plans (HNAPs) and the development of climate financing concept notes.
A Health National Adaptation Plan (HNAP) is developed by a country’s Ministry of Health as part of the national adaptation plan (NAP) process. The NAP enables parties to identify medium- and long-term adaptation needs and develop and implement strategies and programmes to address those needs. Through the European Union (EU)/CARIFORUM Strengthening Climate Resilient Health Systems project, eight countries will receive funding for the preparation of HNAPs. Regional health and climate focal points convened on February 16 and 17 to gain guidance and share best practices. Close to 80 participants from across the region heard from consultants and focal points from Dominica, Grenada and St Lucia. St Lucia is currently capturing data for its capacity assessment, while in Grenada the V&A process began in August 2021. In Dominica, the V&A Assessment was completed and presented in 2016.
Some of the benefits outlined were the integration of climate change responses into health and disaster management planning, greater awareness around climate and health, in particular, among health care staff and the identification of climate-sensitive diseases, like vector, food borne, and water related illnesses and the impact of extreme weather events on the health system. So far, only one Caribbean country has completed a HNAP, five countries are in the development phase, seven have a NAP or a similar document that includes health, one country has a NAP that does not include health and two countries have neither a NAP nor a similar document.
PAHO continues to urge, and through this project, will support health authorities and relevant agencies to develop evidence-based national plans of action and/or health national adaptation plans to protect the population’s health against the risks of climate change. “Climate change is a ‘risk multiplier’, amplifying current challenges, and highlighting the vulnerabilities of communities and critical systems, including health care, to these hazards…In summary, health V&A assessments aim to provide an improved understanding of climate-related risks to health and relevant and actionable recommendations for policymakers to strengthen health systems and increase the resilience of people who are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,” noted Subregional Program Director for the PAHO Caribbean Subregional Office, Dean Chambliss.
Executive Director of the CCCCC, Dr. Colin Young highlighted the timeliness of the project and its ability to strengthen the climate resilience of health systems in the CARIFORUM countries, in particular drawing attention to the health sector vulnerabilities exposed by COVID-19 and ongoing climate change. “As we all know, the adverse effects of climate change did not stop during the pandemic… Climate change will continue to undermine our sustainable development trajectory and push our capacity to cope and adapt to the brink long after the current pandemic is over. Thus, we must use the knowledge and experience gained from dealing with COVID-19 pandemic and climate change to urgently build the climate resilience of our health systems,” Dr. Colin Young said.
Dr. Jonathan Drewry and Dr. Daniel Buss from PAHO, provided an overview of the project and an explanation of how the V&A Assessment fits into NAPs and HNAPs. Participants also heard the experience of Panama, from Mario Quijada where a health V&A assessment has been completed, as well as, Dr. Peter Berry, Senior Policy Analyst and Science Advisor at the Climate Change and Innovation Bureau at Health Canada who outlined that country’s application of the Health V&A Guidance Tools.
Under the Regional Multi-annual Indicative Programme for the Americas and the Caribbean 2021-2027, the EU has pledged to support regional and national efforts towards increasing the effectiveness and ambition of climate action and climate policy, including adaptation policy. “Globally, and in support of actions in the Caribbean region, the EU and a number of European MSAs provide support to the Global Climate Promise which supports governments in the region in positioning adaptation at the heart of their national climate pledges, and creating stronger links with policy and planning processes, including National Adaptation Plans,” asserted Donna Gittens, Programme Manager, Climate Change, EU delegation of the European Union to Barbados, the OECS and CARIFORUM.
The workshop followed the hosting of the Health National Adaptation Plan workshop held in December 2020 and the Conference on Climate Change and Health in SIDS: Focus on the Caribbean, hosted from October 5-8, 2021. The project implementation utilizes an intersectoral approach involving a network of sub-regional implementing partners (CARICOM, CARPHA, CCCCC, CIMH and UWI) as well as United Nations and other organizations.