Southeast Asian nations vow to build health systems resilient to climate change

Kathmandu, September 7

Member countries, including Nepal, 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,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO South-East Asia, said during the 70th session of the Regional Committee session being held in Malé of Maldives.

The declaration 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 organisations, development partners, philanthropic agencies, academic and civil society organisations to mobilise human, financial and technical resources for this purpose.

“Building health systems resilient to climate change requires buy-in from all stakeholders,” Singh emphasised.

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.

She emphasised WHO’s support to member countries as they implement the declaration, and committed to mobilising resources, promoting knowledge and experience-sharing mechanisms, and providing technical support to member countries at the same time as building local capacity.

The Regional Committee session 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.