In recognition of the immense and increasing public health risks caused by climate change, Member countries of WHO South-East Asia Region today unanimously endorsed the Malé Declaration, committing to build health systems able to anticipate, respond to, cope with, recover from and adapt to climate-related shocks and stress.
“Climate change is happening, and is a risk to public health. Whether from greater severity and intensity of extreme weather events, changes in the spread and abundance of disease-carrying vectors such as mosquitoes, or changes to the physical environment that cause displacement or threaten livelihoods, climate change is already having an impact across our Region. Today’s Declaration demonstrates the commitment of the South-East Asia Region’s Member countries to take effective and immediate action,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia, said.
The Declaration being adopted at the Seventieth Regional Committee session of the WHO South-East Asia Region – the Region’s highest decision-making body – builds on recent initiatives at country, regional and global levels to tackle the public health risks caused by climate change. The Declaration is accompanied by a Framework for Action to be implemented between 2017 and 2022, and calls on UN agencies and other international organizations, development partners, philanthropic agencies, academic and civil society organizations to mobilize human, financial and technical resources for this purpose.
“Building health systems resilience to climate change requires buy-in from all stakeholders,” the Regional Director emphasized. “As outlined in the Declaration, core action points include establishing and strengthening climate change and health information systems and research; integrating climate risks with national disaster risk management; enhancing health sector preparedness for climate-related events, including by securing essential services such as water and sanitation, waste management and electricity; and initiating the greening of the health sector by adopting environment-friendly technologies and using energy-efficient services. By fully implementing these and other initiatives, health systems can protect vulnerable populations across the Region against health risks caused by climate change,” Dr Khetrapal Singh said.
The Regional Director emphasized WHO’s support to Member countries as they implement the Malé Declaration, and committed to mobilizing resources, promoting knowledge and experience-sharing mechanisms, and providing technical support to Member countries at the same time as building local capacity. She affirmed WHO’s commitment to presenting a progress report at the Seventy-fifth session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia in 2022.
“WHO South-East Asia Region is committed to supporting Member countries as they strive to strengthen health systems to deal with one of the 21st century’s most pressing issues – climate change. We know what must be done. We can and must act now to meet the immense and increasing public health risks caused by climate change,” Dr Khetrapal Singh said.
The Seventieth session of the Regional Committee is currently being held in Maldives, and includes health ministers and senior health ministry officials from Member countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.