Climate Change Unit Set To Assist GEF Project

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Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, as he addressed the launch of the project at the Courtyard by Marriotts. (A. Miller/BGIS)??

A Climate Change Unit has been estabilished within the Minstry of Health as a show of this island’s commitment to the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) project: Piloting Climate Change Adaptation to Protect Human Health.

This was revealed today by Minister of Health, Donville Inniss, as he addressed the launch of the project at the Courtyard by Marriotts.?? As he commended the initiative and the efforts of the Pan American Health Organization and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Mr. Inniss said: "The Government of Barbados considers this project to be important to the health and wellbeing of its citizens in light of the fact that climate change is considered to be the biggest threat that humans will face in the 21st Century and, particularly for us in Barbados a Small Island Developing State."

The Health Minister pointed out that Barbados presently had one of the highest rates for dengue fever in the entire Americas region and noted that the GEF project would lead to improved practices in the storage of rainwater; prevent the breeding of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and ultimately reduce the incidence of dengue fever.?? Adding that it would also seek to change perceptions with regard to the utilisation of wastewater, he explained: "With a system in place for the safe use of treated wastewater, local health risks will be reduced and there will also be a reduction of pressure on our potable water system for secondary uses. The level of public knowledge will be enhanced as it relates to wastewater reuse."

Those gathered also heard that the project would look to strengthen existing centres and information networks for rapid response to extreme weather events, utilising information technology as much as possible. It was also stated that since climate-related health issues impacted disproportionately on the poor, because of their vulnerability, the project would place emphasis on adaptation and poverty reduction.

The objective of the GEF global project is to "increase adaptive capacity of national health system institutions, including field practitioners, to respond to, and manage long-term climate-sensitive health risks."?? And, according to the Health Minister, adapting to or coping with climate change will become necessary for the island. He stressed: "The need for us to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change presents additional barriers to the achievement of our country’s sustainable development goals, and thus climate change must be considerd a priority, particularly as there are implications for?? human health:

Meanwhile, Resident Representative of the UNDP for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Michelle Gyles-McDonnough, noted that the 2007/2008 Human Development Report called attention to the fact that climate change would interact with human health in diverse ways leaving those least equipped to respond to changing health threats, predominantly poor people in poor countries and in middle income countries, bearing the brunt of health setbacks.?? She said: "Ill health is one of

the most powerful forces holding back the human development potential of poor households and poor countries. One obvious danger is that climate change will further adversely impact their well-being, thereby exacerbating already extreme global inequalities in health and public health."

The UNDP official commended Barbados on the project and remarked: "Given these warnings, we must respond appropriately. We cannot afford to quibble over the uncertainty factor.?? We must be proactive.?? History has taught us that the price of inaction is always greater than the cost of preventive action."

Barbados is one of seven countries in the world along with Bhutan, China, Fiji, Jordan, Kenya, and Uzbekistan chosen by UNDP and the World Health Organization for the GEF project. Its selection is due largely to the fact that a high proportion of the population live along the coastline, and its water-stressed nature.??

jgill@barbados.gov.bb

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