Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are among the most vulnerable nations to climate change in the world. Yet, many island states are also leading in the global response to climate change, through ambitious emissions reduction targets, adaptation actions, and developing climate resilient health systems.
On 4 November 2020, WHO together with the Americas (PAHO) and Western Pacific (WPRO) regions published a series of SIDS Health and Climate Change Country Profiles. Country profiles were published for: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Tuvalu (in Tuvaluan). This is in addition to recently published profiles on the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
The WHO UNFCCC Health and Climate Change Country Profiles provide a vital snapshot of the health impacts of climate change and record progress in building climate resilient health systems. It is an ongoing project, with country profiles updated regularly in order to monitor progress in addressing the health threats of climate change.
The country profiles present national climate projections; indicators on health vulnerabilities to and health impacts of climate change; policy responses to health and climate change; and recommendations to address the national health threats posed by climate change.
The profiles form part of the WHO Special Initiative on Climate Change and Health in SIDS and the associated Caribbean and Pacific Action Plans. The SIDS Special Initiative aims to provide health authorities from island states with the political, technical, scientific and financial support to improve understanding and address the health impacts of climate change.
These states increasingly face a range of climate-related health risks, including sea level rise flooding inhabited land; livelihoods dependent upon oceans threatened by warming seas and ocean acidification; more extreme weather events (such as more intense tropical cyclones); food and nutrition insecurity and the spread of infectious and vector-borne diseases.
These country profiles demonstrate that these are not only future threats, but rather health impacts being felt now.
Limited access to international climate finance was frequently cited in the country profiles as a key barrier for island states to ramp up their response to the impacts of climate change.
Yet these country profiles show that despite these challenges, SIDS are setting ambitious targets and working to implement policies that will increase their adaptive capacity and resilience in the face of the health challenges posed by climate change.