At the recent World Health Organisation (WHO) meeting in Geneva which focused on climate change and health, when asked about the outcome of the meeting, Health Minister Clarice Modeste responded, “Too many times when we speak about climate change, the challenges of health is rarely mentioned – but I must tell you that this meeting enlightened many of us about the direct relationship between climate change and health.”
“This was a meeting where the experts in climate change came together and shared with us health experts about how climate change is impacting on global health. They disclosed that the solution is much more that the simple undertaking of planting a tree to save the environment,” said Modeste. The minister admitted that this was one of the most informed meetings she attended with regards to discussing and sharing information about human life and the ongoing discussion of how health issues is both directly and indirectly link to changes due to climate change and climate variation.
“Weather and climate play a important role in people’s health everywhere and changes in temperature and other extreme events could enhance the spread of some diseases,” said Modeste who points out that health persons worldwide including the Caribbean, are registering diseases that are becoming resistant to traditional treatment, while some diseases that were once thought to be under control are rising in certain parts.
“In Grenada, dengue is here year round. It was once seen as a seasonal problem but now our data is showing that dengue is increasing amongst the population. Chikungunya is another that is seen to be related to climate change and as you can see it’s worsening,” she said. The WHO has also linked the increase in yellow fever, malaria and rabies to climate change. The viruses transmitting these diseases to humans need human blood or saliva to survive.
Modeste said that one of the outcomes of the meeting was the setting up of a mechanism in countries which already have a framework for technical experts in climate change and experts in health matters will work together with a view to establish a system for sharing and analysing of information and data.
“Where there maybe issues that each talk about, we currently do have a comprehensive coordinating effort where we encourage the population to take mitigating measures to minimise the negative impact of climate change. The public has to be educated that climate change affects the entire environment, and the solution is more than planting a tree,” she said.
It was also agreed that the issue of climate change on human life needs to be included in the post millennium agenda.
By Linda Straker