The European Union (EU), through the European Development Fund, has signed a five-year €7-million agreement with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to enhance coordination and increase the climate resilience of health systems in the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) community.
As part of the agreement, the EU will be working alongside five sub-regional partners, UN agencies and other research-based institutions to help Caribbean countries better prepare and respond to climate threats. It will also build capacity and networks within the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology & Hydrology (CIMH), and The University of the West Indies (UWI).
“The implementation of this action comes at a critical time [when] the region continues to battle the impacts of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic on its citizens and health care systems while preparing to face what is projected to be a particularly active hurricane season. The EU stands ready to provide support to its regional partners recognising the enormous challenges precipitated by these unprecedented circumstances,” Head of the European Delegation to Barbados the OECS and CARICOM and CARIFORUM, Ambassador Daniela Tramacere, pointed out.
The countries that will benefit from the grant are: Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
“The implementation of this action comes at a critical time [when] the region continues to battle the impacts of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic on its citizens and health care systems while preparing to face what is projected to be a particularly active hurricane season.”— Ambassador Daniela Tramacere
The project aims to address four lines of action that include supporting Caribbean health leaders in their engagement nationally, regionally and internationally; highlighting the relationship between health and climate change; supporting public health preparedness and the development of mitigation policies to address climate risks; and facilitating access to resources to address the vulnerabilities of health systems to climate change. The project will also support ongoing regional surveillance efforts for COVID-19.
While expressing gratitude for the grant, and for partnering with the EU, subregional programme coordinator for the Caribbean PAHO/WHO Office Jessie Schutt-Aine shared that her organisation plans to use the funds in different ways to strengthen health systems in the region and to share knowledge and best practices.
“This grant will allow us to work with other subregional partners to fund visionary mitigation and adaptation projects, adapt and prioritise country plans, foster leaders, and increase capabilities for decision-making over the five years. Inception meetings will begin in June and, at every stage, our partners and the public will be kept informed through our communications and visibility partners and, we hope, will become more knowledgeable and engaged around the impact of climate change on health in the region,” Schutt-Aine stated.
The project will also create a unified interdisciplinary One Health approach towards climate change and respond directly to the recommendations that came out of the Caribbean Action Plan on Climate Change and Health signed by 15 ministers of health and the environment in 2018.
Responding to the grant, Assistant Secretary-General of CARICOM Dr Douglas Slater highlighted that the continued partnership between the European Union, the UN System — represented by PAHO — and our CARICOM regional institutions, led by CARPHA, will address the region’s capacity to adapt to and reduce the effects of climate change on public health.
“Science has established that global climate change poses an existential threat to Small Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States. The CARICOM region has been instrumental in making this case on a sustained basis at the international level for almost three decades. We consider interventions such as these, extremely valuable since they have the potential to positively impact the lives of citizens, and, as such, the Secretariat will collaborate with the partners to ensure that the outcomes redound to the benefit of our Caribbean Community,” Slater said.