Fiji Health Minister speaks on Climate Change at the Commonwealth Ministers for Health Meeting
The Minister for Health & Medical Services Hon. Jone Usamate in his role as Minister and Chair of the Pacific Health Ministers forum was part of the 4 member Ministerial Panel Discussion at the Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting held on Sunday 22nd May 2016 in Geneva.
The Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting was held the day before the opening of the World Health Assembly.
The Hon. Minister spoke passionately on the theme ‘Climate Change and the Pacific’ and he emphasized the fact that climate change was threatening human life in the Pacific.
“Climate Change not only contributes towards major health issues, but it is also destroying the ability of human beings to continue living in many Pacific islands. Some of our islands have already disappeared and many are severely threatened and becoming uninhabitable”, Mr Usamate added.
He highlighted the impact that climate change was having on the Pacific in terms of ocean acidification, rising sea levels, food security, the rising incidences of vector borne diseases, respiratory diseases, psychosocial impacts, and even its impact on the already huge NCD crisis in the Pacific.
Mr Usamate said, “Climate change is affecting the ability of our health systems to respond to the crisis. One severe event can wipe out most of the Health infrastructure in a small Pacific Island nation”.
He informed the meeting of the two category 5 cyclones that had struck the Pacific in 2015 and 2016. This had never happened before. In Fiji’s case, TC Winston affected 41% of the population and destroyed or damaged about 25% of all health facilities.
Mr Usamate shared very strong views on the importance of having access to climate funds, which has remained a challenge for middle-income countries like Fiji who do have access to these climate funds.
“Without access to such funds, Pacific Island countries are hampered in their ability to adapt to the impacts of Climate Change on our health facilities and systems”.
The Hon Minister for Health & Medical Services also thanked all the members of the Commonwealth who helped Fiji during TC Winston, and stressed that the impact of climate change on health in the Pacific. He emphasized that it should be part of the Commonwealth Health Ministers statement to the World Health Assembly.
Fiji has been represented by a three-member team at the World Health Assembly lead by the Minister for Health & Medical Services, Hon. Jone Usamate, National Adviser NCD Dr Isimeli Tukana and the Director Nursing Services, Mrs Silina Waqa Ledua.