Minister of Health and Wellness, Ian Gooding-Edghill. (FP)

The Ministry of Health and Wellness is planning to conduct a Climate Risk Vulnerability Assessment across the entire health sector to build climate resilience and preserve public health in the event of a disaster.

Minister of Health and Wellness, Ian Gooding-Edghill, made the announcement this morning at the opening of a National Climate Change and Health Symposium, themed Building One-Health Partnerships for Adaptation to Climate Change.

He said Barbados and other small island developing states (SIDS) were at the crossroads when it came to maintaining adequate services for public health and adapting to increasing climate-driven threats.

SIDS, he pointed out, contributed less than one per cent to global warming and the main emissions-based drivers of climate change, “yet we suffer the disproportionate brunt of the negative consequences”.

The Health Minister said the impact of Hurricane Elsa served as a reminder of the need to maintain adequate health services before, during, and after natural disasters.

He pointed out that the absence of electrical power, a clean, safe water supply, functioning sanitary facilities, and adequate cold storage of pharmaceuticals or laboratory reagents, could each have devastating impacts on the delivery of satisfactory health services.

“These realities have been incorporated into healthcare planning to some extent, and is evidenced by the recent water storage augmentation initiatives across health care facilities, including the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.  The development of Health National Adaptation Plans as a critical chapter in a wider National Adaptation Plan is currently the primary strategy being pursued in efforts to commence the building of resilience in the health sector.

“Consequently, there are plans to conduct a comprehensive Climate Risk Vulnerability Assessment across the health sector, which further demonstrates this Ministry’s commitment to building climate resilience in the interest of preserving public health,” Mr. Gooding-Edghill shared.

He noted there was still a lot of work to be done but the Ministry of Health and Wellness could not do it alone.  He further added that in order to build resilience and adapt to climate change in the health sector, there must be co-operation and partnerships between sectors, including agriculture, environment, water resources and finance, to name a few.

“Good health depends on access to wholesome nutritious food, healthy animals, clean water, green spaces, safe marine environments, clean air and others.  This is where the ‘One Health’ principal plays an important role in the effort to building resilience to climate change in the health sector,” he maintained.

The symposium was part of the Climate Change and Health Leaders Fellowship Programme (2021/2022), which is a European Union funded five-year project, aimed at strengthening climate resilient health systems in the Caribbean.  

The goal was to bring together multiple sectors to identify issues and solutions to the health impacts of climate change, relevant to their specific sectors.  

Presentations were made by representatives from the Ministries of Agriculture, Environment and National Beautification, and Health and Wellness, as well as the Coastal Zone Management Unit.

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