BRIDGETOWN, Barbados: A Climate Change Unit has been established within the Ministry of Health as a show of Barbados’ commitment to the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) project, “Piloting Climate Change Adaptation to Protect Human Health”.
Health minister Donville Inniss says the Government of Barbados considers this project to be important to the health and well being 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”.
Inniss noted that Barbados has one of the highest rates for dengue fever in the entire Americas region and said 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.
Inniss said the project would also seek to change perceptions with regard to the utilization of wastewater.
“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,” he said.
The initiative will also seek to strengthen existing centres and information networks for rapid response to extreme weather events, utilizing information technology as much as possible. 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.
“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 considered a priority, particularly as there are implications for human health,” said Inniss.
Barbados, Bhutan, China, Fiji, Jordan, Kenya and Uzbekistan were chosen by the United Nations Development Program and the World Health Organization for the GEF project. The island’s selection is due largely to the fact that a high proportion of the population live along the coastline, and its water-stressed nature.