(Press Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister)
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts -– There are many risks associated with climate change, as it has an inextricable link to increased non-communicable diseases (NCDs), particularly in Small Island Development States (SIDS), according to Prime Minister, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris.
An article on this topic was co-authored by Prime Minister Harris and Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) Dr. James Hospedales. The article was published in the November/December issue of the G20 Buenos Aires publication, which is the official conference book for the upcoming Nov. 30 to Dec. 1 G20 Meeting in Argentina.
“More must be done to protect small island and low-lying developing states from the escalating dual threats of rising temperatures and unhealthier populations,” Dr. Harris and Dr. Hospedales concluded in the article.
Dr. Harris, CARICOM’s lead Head on health matters, and Dr. Hospedales, the chair of the Defeat-NCD Partnership governing board, stated in the publication that climate change and NCDs are “two sides of the same coin” and that Small Island Developing States, like St. Kitts and Nevis, “are the most vulnerable to the impact of both climate change and NCDs.”
“One link between climate and NCDs is the excessively large number of deaths among people with NCDs in the weeks and months after a large storm, given the disruption to services and reduced availability of medicines. Another link is food and nutrition security.
“We are witnessing the erosion of agriculture as more frequent storms, drought episodes and damage to coral reefs undermines food and nutrition security in SIDS. This leads to more consumption of cheap, low-quality imported food, leading to obesity and attendant NCDs,” the article stated.
It stated that effective public policies and programmes must be implemented if countries are to turn the tide on the NCD epidemic. It suggested improving regulatory capacity for tobacco, alcohol, food, and medicines to reduce population risk levels and to increase access to treatment.
The article noted that both climate change and NCDs are typified by over-consumption of food, fossil fuel, tobacco and alcohol. It added, “Climate change in the Caribbean means hotter, drier weather, with more category four or five storms and inundation by above-average rainfall that leads to loss of life, property, agricultural crops and infrastructure. The social, economic and environmental implications are profound.”
Prime Minister Harris and Dr. Hospedales noted that the urgency of addressing these concerns demands that leaders develop and foster mutually beneficial and demonstrative partnerships without delay.
“There is no luxury of time when lives are at stake; livelihoods are in jeopardy; national competitiveness is under threat; our collective labour force is in crisis,” the article said. “Our SIDS economies become even more fragile under the crushing weight of the formidable challenges of climate change and NCDs.”
In September, Prime Minister Harris raised similar concerns when he addressed the 73rd Session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York City, U.S.A., and during the launch of the Defeat-NCD Partnership, which was held on the margins on the UN General Assembly.