What about health and environment? – Newspaper

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The fact that the Department of Health and the Department of Climate Change were not included in the first ministerial oath is a sad reflection of the priority that has been given to the welfare of the poor and those vulnerable to climate change. This unfortunately reveals policy myopia given the importance of social determinants of health, climate change and development. The cost of inaction is too high, and any agreement with the IMF will need to recognize that.

Pakistan has yet to recover from the devastating floods of 2022, with losses exceeding $30 billion. More than 32 million people were affected, and 2.1 million homes and more than 2,000 health facilities were destroyed, only a small portion of which have been rebuilt. Relatively little of the $10 billion pledged for reconstruction in January 2023 has reached the people most in need, leaving us vulnerable to the devastating and long-term effects of such disasters. It’s highlighted.

Unseasonable rain and snowfall in the country’s north in recent weeks has wreaked havoc on farmers and transport, underscoring the fact that extreme heat is not the only cause of climate change.

A recent analysis by academics at Aga Khan University highlights the importance of steadily increasing surface temperatures and decreasing subsoil moisture as key factors in early childhood wasting and stunting. Some of the impacts of climate change on poor and vulnerable people, particularly pregnant women, are likely to be substantial, with significant gender inequalities.

The worsening human development crisis must be at the heart of all national reforms.

A lot is happening on this front, with Pakistan leading some of the global efforts to constitute a fair distribution of resources such as loss and damage funds for low- and middle-income countries. However, national and local policies on investments to mitigate the effects of climate change and promote resilience and adaptation are still in their infancy. Funds from the State Finance Commission award will remain in state capitals and will not be allocated to the district level where it is needed most.

It provides for the development of an action framework for climate-resilient health systems by the Federal Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination, and the structure of climate risk screening of development projects at the level of the Federal Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives. These are welcome steps, but they need to be balanced with concrete action and investment protection.

The health sector is both a contributor to carbon emissions and a victim of climate change, as well as disaster and service impacts. The current and projected energy crisis will have a significant impact on the functioning of healthcare facilities and support services. Decarbonization requires investment in alternative energy sources and reducing waste. While solarizing health facilities is simple and easy to achieve, investing in climate-resilient health infrastructure and facilities requires significant resources. In the meantime, much can be done with indigenous solutions and structural changes.

Ambitious plans for reforestation and tree planting, which have been on hold for several years, are important components of ecosystem-based approaches to public health and well-being and need to be restarted. As with many of Pakistan’s problems in meeting challenges, solutions must be internal and build on existing programs and resources.

The new government of Punjab, whose capital is the world’s most polluted city, has rightly declared that cleaning up the environment and reducing the omnipresent crisis of air quality and smog is a priority. This must be accompanied by a clear and executable long-term strategy and funding allocation for implementation.

Apart from their significant economic impact, environmental determinants of health are a major cause of long-term poor health and non-communicable diseases, and the costs of doing nothing outweigh investments in prevention and mitigation. much larger.

Other countries have succeeded in solving large-scale air quality problems. The case of Mexico City is a good example, although it has the obvious disadvantages of altitude and location. Although it was named the world’s most polluted city about 40 years ago, it has now disappeared from the list of most polluted cities. Improving Pakistan’s air quality will have significant health benefits. The World Bank estimates that the benefits of clean fuels to Pakistan’s health are well 50 to 70 percent greater than every dollar spent.

So what can a new government do, which has a huge opportunity to reset the path to solid development and economic reconstruction? First and foremost, it must effectively halt and redirect the ongoing and worsening human development crisis. must be at the heart of all national reforms. We also focus on the social sector as a core investment rather than an afterthought, recognizing that healthy health, nutrition and the environment are fundamental to the development and sustainability of economic growth.

The 10-point agenda proposed by the aforementioned Action Framework for Climate Resilient Health Systems provides a robust roadmap. However, as a prerequisite, a paradigm shift is required to foster collaboration between departments. The Prime Minister must establish and lead broad-based ministerial committees on health and climate change. The Commission should appropriately appoint top experts in the water, education, health, climate and energy sectors. This group should regularly monitor the implementation of the framework’s action points: Leadership and Governance. Health care workers. Assessing vulnerability capacity and adaptation. Integrated risk monitoring and early warning. Health and climate research. Climate-resilient and sustainable technology and infrastructure. Managing environmental determinants of health. climate-based health programs, emergency preparedness, and disaster risk management. and climate and health finance.

Pakistan’s Nationally Determined Contribution commitments include the need to address vector-borne diseases due to poor air quality, heat waves, extreme weather injuries, wildfires, damage to health infrastructure, nutrition, respiratory diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. It is included. These health threats have been identified as key areas requiring priority action to reduce the impacts of climate change on public health. It is time for the new government to recognize that the Paris Agreement’s focus on public health emphasizes the link between climate change and human well-being. This highlights the importance of addressing health concerns within the framework of climate action. Our NDC commitments and downstream actions must be at the heart of policy and must not wait for a suo motu notice by the Supreme Court.

The authors co-authored this article on behalf of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Pakistan’s UN-affiliated national civil society platform focused on health and climate change-related SDGs.

Published at Dawn on March 22, 2024

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