Jamaica is among 16 Caribbean countries that will benefit from implementation of the €6.85-million (US$8.28-million) European Union (EU)/CARIFORUM Strengthening Climate Resilient Health Systems Project.
The initiative, which was launched during a virtual ceremony on Wednesday (December 2), is a joint EU-CARICOM project that will be coordinated by the Pan- American Health Organization (PAHO).
It aims to advance public understanding of the effects of climate change, while strengthening the ability of beneficiary countries’ health systems to respond to potential impacts.
The broad-based undertaking is ultimately intended to support interventions to mitigate climate change and its serious health impacts in Caribbean nations.
The other beneficiary states are Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
In a PAHO communiqué on Wednesday (December 2), Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, welcomed the initiative while emphasising the need for the region of the Americas to embrace mechanisms designed to unite countries around climate change.
“We are at a crucial point in time in the Americas when we must increase our solidarity and inter-governmental collaboration to address climate issues which are, arguably, the health challenges of the century,” she argued.
Against this background, Dr. Etienne said the project, which supports a cadre of new climate and health leaders, is timely.
“It promotes evidence for the frequently hidden health co-benefits of climate action and supports the implementation of health-related plans and resources for mitigation and adaptation for health,” she added.
Meanwhile, CARICOM Secretary-General, Irwin LaRocque, referenced World Health Organization (WHO) data that indicate 250,000 additional deaths per year are projected to result from climate change.
The WHO lists malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress among the most telling factors to this end.
“The direct cost to health is estimated to be between US$2 billion and US$4 billion per year by 2030. Tellingly, areas with weak health infrastructure, mostly in developing countries, will be the least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond,” Mr. LaRocque further stated.
The Secretary-General emphasised that in order to respond to climate change, CARICOM member States must have access to concessional development financing, or soft loans, with more generous terms than market loans.
Additionally, he said that financing should be based on the universal vulnerability index, which measures the exposure of populations to hazards.
Against this background, Dr. Etienne indicated that PAHO would also work to assist Caribbean nations in getting financial assistance.
She advised that the entity will do so through the Green Climate Fund, which was established to assist developing nations respond to climate change.
In the meantime, Head of the EU Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean States, Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, affirmed the EU’s commitment to partnering with regional agencies.
“The European Union is privileged to continue our partnership with an esteemed group of regional agencies that builds on a diverse portfolio of programmes to support advancement in the health and climate sectors,” she said.
Other stakeholder partners in the project include Caribbean universities, and regional climate, public health and agricultural agencies and organisations.