Countries have started to prioritize health in their efforts to protect people from the impact of climate change, but only about a quarter of those recently surveyed by the World Health Organization have been able to fully implement their national health and climate change plans or strategies. Countries report a lack of funding; the impact of COVID-19; and insufficient human resources are major obstacles to progress.
The WHO Global Health and Climate Change Survey 2021 notes, however, that more than three-quarters of the countries surveyed have developed or are in the process of developing national health and climate change plans or strategies.
Some 85% of countries now have a designated focal point responsible for health and climate change in their ministries of health, while in 54% of countries the ministry of health has established a stakeholder mechanism (such as a working group or committee) on health. and climate change.
About two-thirds of countries surveyed have conducted or are currently undertaking a climate change and health vulnerability and adaptation assessment, while virtually all (94%) countries include health considerations in their contributions. nationally determined (NDC) to the Paris Agreement.
The new WHO survey highlights the number of countries that are neither supported nor prepared to deal with the effects of climate change on health. We are here at COP 26 to urge the world to better support countries in need and to ensure that together we do a better job of protecting people from the greatest threat to human health we face. today. “
Dr Maria Neira, Director of Environment, Climate Change and Health, WHO
The failure of countries to protect health from climate change is particularly damaging for their most disadvantaged groups, including ethnic minorities, poor communities, migrants and displaced people, the elderly and many women and children.
“The health case for increased climate action is very clear. For example, nearly 80% of deaths from air pollution could be avoided if current levels of air pollution were reduced to guidelines of the WHO on air quality, ”said Dr Neira.
The WHO survey reveals that insufficient funding continues to be the main obstacle to the full implementation of national health and climate change plans, cited by 70% of countries (up from 56% in 2019). Human resource constraints are the second most important obstacle, while about a third of countries identified the lack of intersectoral collaboration as a major obstacle.
About half of countries report that the COVID-19 emergency has slowed progress in the fight against climate change by diverting health personnel and resources, and continues to threaten the capacities of national health authorities to plan and prepare climate-related health stresses and shocks.
The report also notes a potential missed opportunity to identify and optimize the health benefits of adaptation and mitigation efforts in other sectors, which could have contributed to a clean and healthy recovery from COVID-19: structural and social determinants of health, such as education, equity, gender, urban planning, housing, energy and transport systems were represented in less than half of established multisectoral mechanisms.
The first report in this series was published in 2019. This second report provides valuable insight into the overall progress governments are making in addressing the health risks of climate change.
““The challenge now is to remove the barriers that prevent countries from finalizing and implementing plans,” said Tara Neville, technical officer in the WHO’s Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health and lead author of the investigation report.
The World Health Organization