WHO commitment to Pacific and climate action

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has completed a two-week mission to Pacific Island countries and reiterated WHO’s unflagging commitment to supporting their efforts to advance health and wellbeing.

At the opening session of the Pacific Health Ministers’ Meeting, Dr Tedros told Pacific Island Leaders that: “WHO is committed to you and the people of the Pacific.”

He noted the importance of ensuring that the voices of the Pacific are heard on the global stage, including at the UN General Assembly high-level meetings on universal health coverage and the Climate Action Summit.

Pressing issues included:

  • strengthening primary health care as key to advancing universal health coverage, including through robust monitoring and evaluation;
  • ways to reinforce national systems and institutions to further develop the health workforce;
  • developing multisectoral approaches and scaling up services to prevent and treat noncommunicable diseases (the leading cause of death in the region);
  • improving health security, for example through steps to improve preparedness for outbreaks of diseases such as dengue; and
  • tackling the health impacts of climate change – and the important role that Pacific Island countries have to play in highlighting the negative effects of climate change and helping to identify solutions.

In 2017, WHO established a special initiative on climate change and health in small island developing states, launching it in cooperation with Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji, who was president of COP23 in Bonn. Following consultations with Indian Ocean, Caribbean and Pacific island countries, WHO developed an action plan which was endorsed at the World Health Assembly in May 2019. WHO is now supporting countries in implementing that plan.

Speaking at the Climate Change Summit in Tuvalu, Dr Tedros told delegates that WHO had been mandated to develop two health commitments for the UN Climate Action Summit. These were to save lives by cutting carbon emissions and cleaning our air; and boosting investments in climate action, public health and sustainable development.