WHO Calls for Financing to Address Climate Risks to Health
UN Photo/Lily Solmssen
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For the ‘2018 WHO Health and Climate Change Survey Report: Tracking Global Progress,’ the agency surveyed 101 countries to find out how they are preparing their health systems to cope with the impacts of climate change.

The report finds that while about half of the surveyed countries had made climate change and health plans, most did not have financing for their plans, and fewer than ten countries had a fully-funded plan.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a report highlighting that health systems will increasingly need to deal with climate-related health conditions, such as heat stress, impacts of extreme weather events, and a rise in vector-borne diseases such as cholera, dengue fever, and malaria. At the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain, WHO is calling on countries to mainstream health in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), and national communications to the UNFCCC, and on donors to support countries in their efforts.

For the ‘2018 WHO Health and Climate Change Survey Report: Tracking Global Progress,’ the agency surveyed 101 countries to find out how they are preparing their health systems to cope with the impacts of climate change. The report finds that while about half of the surveyed countries had made climate change and health plans, most did not have financing for their plans, and fewer than ten countries had a fully-funded plan.

The WHO health and climate change report is based on information provided by national health systems around the world. Respondents were evenly split between high-income, middle-income and low-income countries, and around one-quarter of the respondents were small island developing States (SIDS).

It is a moral imperative that countries have the resources they need to act against climate change and safeguard health now and in the future.

The survey found that, inter alia:

  • Health and climate plans varied in their coverage of the issues, and many plans need to be more comprehensive;
  • Financing was the most common barrier to implementation, cited by around one-quarter of participants;
  • Almost half of respondents faced barriers in accessing international climate finance for reasons including lack of information on opportunities for funding, health actors not being well-connected to climate change processes, and lack of capacity to prepare country proposals;
  • A similar number of respondents have conducted vulnerability and adaptation assessments for health, but the findings have not yet resulted in finance and human resources being allocated to address the risks; and
  • Collaboration between health and other sectors relevant to climate change was most common in the water, sanitation, and wastewater sector, with almost half of respondents reporting some kind of collaboration. There were far fewer examples of collaboration on household energy, transportation, and electricity generation, although clean fuels contribute greatly to alleviating respiratory and other health problems.

Commenting on the report, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called it “a moral imperative” that countries have the resources needed to safeguard human health. Maria Neira, Director of Environment, Climate Change and Health, WHO, suggested that including health in NDCs, NAPs, climate finance pledges and other national communications to the UNFCCC could make the Paris Agreement “the strongest international health agreement of the century.”

WHO supports national health services to collate data on climate hazards and the expected health impacts of climate change in their respective countries. The data are used to build risk profiles, termed ‘Health and Climate Change Country Profiles.’ The project launched its first cycle in 2015, with a new cycle beginning in 2019.

WHO’s previous work has shown that the value of health gains from reducing carbon emissions would approximately be double the cost of implementing these actions at global level, and meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement could save about a million lives a year worldwide by 2050 through reductions in air pollution alone. [Publication: 2018 WHO Health and Climate Change Survey Report: Tracking Global Progress] [WHO News Release] [Health and Climate Change Country Profiles]


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