At the Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly, African governments joined forces with the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa (WHO) and Amref Health Africa to unveil a regional initiative aimed at tackling the health impacts of climate change in Africa.
This collaborative effort seeks to facilitate experience sharing and collective action in climate adaptation and mitigation, promoting multisectoral work and amplifying the voice of health and well-being in global climate action forums.
By bolstering legal, institutional, and operational frameworks, the initiative aims to address the complex challenges posed by climate-related health issues, aligning with the commitments made at COP26.
The initiative’s formalization occurred during an inter-ministerial dialogue held at the Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly, jointly organized by the WHO Regional Office for Africa and Amref Health Africa.
The backdrop for this dialogue is the increasing occurrence of climate-linked emergencies, with over 100 health emergencies transpiring in the African Region annually. Notably, 56% of the 2,121 recorded public health events in the region between 2001 and 2021 were climate-related.
As natural disasters surge, constituting 70% of all disasters between 2017 and 2021, their devastating consequences are becoming evident. The recent cyclone Freddy in southern Africa resulted in the loss of at least 676 lives and the displacement of thousands in Malawi.
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Regional Director for WHO – Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti emphasized the direct impact of climate change on health and well-being in the region. The initiative aims to establish resilient health systems capable of providing essential services amidst floods, droughts, environmental degradation, disease outbreaks, and other climate change-related impacts.
Group CEO of Amref Health Africa, Dr. Githinji Gitahi highlighted the need for greater attention to the dangers of climate change on health. Currently, less than 20% of African countries mention health in their nationally determined contributions. By informing national planning and contributions through evidence-based research, the initiative aims to protect health systems from the threats of climate change.
The commitment of health ministers to multisectoral collaboration and coordination was reiterated to enhance the implementation of mitigation and adaptation measures, effectively reducing climate-related health risks.