Impacts on human health and wellbeing are one of the three sets of “adverse effects” that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is designed to prevent. The international public health community has also now recognized climate change as a high priority, most obviously through a 2008 World Health Assembly Resolution, which particularly notes the need for interventions to protect health in developing countries.
In order for this to occur, health needs to be represented in the planning and funding processes of the climate community (and vice versa). The secretariat of the UNFCCC therefore asked the WHO Regional Office for Africa, and WHO Headquarters, to review health coverage within the National Adaptation Programmes for Action. These have been developed by the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), to plan their most urgent and immediate needs for adaptation measures, and to justify international funding support.
The results of the review do not make encouraging reading. As the summary states:
“It was found that 39 of 41 NAPAs reviewed (95%) consider health as being one of the sectors on which climate change is seen as having an impact. However, only 23% (9/39) of these plans were found to be comprehensive in their health-vulnerability assessment.
In total, 73% (30/41) of the NAPAs include health interventions within adaptation needs and proposed actions, but only 27% (8/30) of these interventions are found to be adequate. The total number of selected priority projects is 459 but only 50 (11%) represent projects focused on health. The total estimated cost of the priority projects is USD 1,852,726,528 with just USD 57,777,770 (3%) going to health projects. It is concluded that with few exceptions, the current consideration of public health interventions in NAPAs is unlikely to support the resilience processes and protect public health from the negative effects of climate change.”
This should not really be a surprise, particularly as the health sector has only recently begun to engage seriously on this issue, for example through actively participating in national climate change processes. Instead it is encouraging that the UNFCCC asked for this review, and is interested to hear from the health sector on how to address the problem. WHO will be working with national partners, and with the UNFCCC , to raise the coverage and quality of health input into future climate change planning, and to support concrete interventions to protect health and wellbeing.
The full text of the review ” Overview of health considerations within National Adaptation Programmes of Action for climate change in least developed countries and small island states” by Lucien Manga, Magaran Bagayoko, Tim Meredith and Maria Neira, can be found on the WHO website.