The speech for 4rd national symposium on climate change and health by Dr Dapeng Luo, acting WHO Representative
Honorable Minister of Health, Dr. Udval
Dr Tsolmongerel, Director of Policy Planning Department of MOH
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning all.
I have much pleasure in participating and making few remarks at the opening of this annual symposium on Climate Change and Health. The objective of the symposium is to promote leadership of health sector and strengthen health system response to CC. It has a very particular relevance to Mongolia as one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change.
There is now widespread agreement that the earth is warming, due to emissions of greenhouse gases caused by human activity. It is also clear that current trends in energy use, development and population growth will lead to continuing – and more severe – climate change. The changing climate will inevitably affect the basic requirements for maintaining health: clean air and water, sufficient food and adequate shelter. Moreover, evidences of global climate change are evident in Mongolia as in many other countries, but with specific features. It is concluded that over the last 30 years temperature has raised dramatically, increased dryness and decreased precipitation in Mongolian forest-steppe regions. Annual average temperature is estimated to be increased by 3-5℃ till 2100. The occurrences of disturbances in climate and geophysical systems projected to be intensify in scale, magnitude and frequency, including extreme hot and cold weather, drought and decreasing water resources, zud, windstorms, desertification, flooding and degradation of land surfaces.
The impacts of climate change on the ecosystem will affect almost all sectors, human and animal life. WHO estimates that each year, about 1.2 million people die from causes attributable to urban air pollution, 2.2 million from diarrhea largely resulting from lack of access to clean water supply and sanitation, and from poor hygiene, 3.5 million from malnutrition and approximately 60 000 in natural disasters. Vulnerability assessment report of Mongolia showed that water quality and quantity is being affected by changing climate and Gobi and East aimags are vulnerable to water related communicable and non-communicable diseases.
Strengthening of public health services needs to be a central component of adaptation to climate change. The international health community already has a wealth of experience in protecting people from climate-sensitive hazards, and proven, cost-effective health interventions are already available to counter the most urgent of these. Broadening the coverage of available interventions would greatly improve health now.
More sustainable policies on household energy, electricity generation, agriculture and nutrition, transport and the built environment, could each bring significant reductions in major burdens of disease, including respiratory infections, cardiovascular disease and cancer. These local and immediate health benefits would offset a large part of the costs of climate change mitigation, and provide a strong political and personal motivation for action. WHO was requested by the 61st World Health Assembly in 2008 to develop and implement a work plan to support member states in the protection of human health from climate change. The Workplan approved by the Executive Board in 2009, orients WHOs priorities to carry out activities in four key areas. The climate change and health workplan aims to:
- support health systems in all countries, in particular low- and middle-income States and small island States, in order to enhance capacity for assessing and monitoring health vulnerability, risks and impacts due to climate change;
- identify strategies and actions to protect human health, particularly of the most vulnerable groups; and
- share knowledge and good practices.
In this framework, WHO Country Office has been supporting activities to improve public health intervention to reduce and mitigate climate change and its health effects, strengthen capacity of health sector to adapt climate change and health impact.
Leadership of health sector is crucial to reduce carbon foot print of health and other sectors and enhance inter-sectoral partnership and collaboration for strengthening health system response to CC.
Protecting health of the population and protecting health of vulnerable people from climate change is a substantial challenge. Many questions, issues and uncertainties still remain in this field. I am confident that a partnership approach both within the health sector and across other sectors will strengthen health impact of climate change resilience and response capacity to a new level. I wish you success in your work towards strengthened health systems and to protect human health from risks due to climate change, and can assure the full support of WHO.