A representative of the World Health Organisation presenting her findings. (Seychelles News Agency)
Seychelles launched the first discussions on the impact of climate change on health at the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) in Dubai and revealed how it has been affected as a small island developing state (SIDS).
The discussions were launched by the Minister for Health, Peggy Vidot, on Saturday.
Vidot talked about the “deep sense of urgency and purpose at COP28, as for the first time COP has given health its rightful place at the discussions.”
The talks were held under the theme “Climate change and human health in Seychelles: a SIDS perspective and Seychelles.”
The principal policy analyst in the Ministry of Health, Sanjeev Pugazhendi, presented the various challenges Seychelles faced as a small island state as a result of climate change.
He said that there are “direct injuries people suffered as a result of landslides, an increase in the number of fires leading to direct injury and air pollution, and people suffering from respiratory diseases.”
According to figures of the health ministry collected through its research with the Seychelles Meteorological Authority, there has also been an increase in “water-borne illnesses due to flooding.Whenever there is heavy rain, leptospirosis is quite prevalent in Seychelles. We have one of the highest incidents in the world,” said Pugazhendi.
Given the challenges, Vidot explained that “our health system is already grappling with COVID19 and is faced with increasing burdens due to climate change. The health nexus requires united global collaborations and forging of partnerships.”
Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, has partnerships with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the African Union (AU) and non-governmental organisations in its adaptation and mitigation strategies.
As part of its strategies to deal with climate change impacts on the population’s health, the small island state’s health authority has adopted the relocation of some of its infrastructure.
On a regional level, the Ministry of Health is working with the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) among many others to ensure the health authorities have the cooperation of all in its actions.
Pugazhendi explained that “working on having more climate change champions in the health sector there are challenges on a societal level partly because of the effects of COVID-19 as well as substance abuse and sexual diseases.”
In a recent publication by a leading meteorological expert released in 2020, in Seychelles the number of warm days of more than 32 degrees Celsius has increased, rainfall is less predictable, and annual sea level rise of +0.65 cm (2010-2020)
The country, with a population of over 100,000, has a life expectancy of 74.2 years, according to the Ministry of Health’s report of 2022, with 1,569 births and 926 deaths recorded in that year.
An additional challenge linked to climate change is the dengue fever epidemic.
Since 2015 there has been a dengue epidemic with an increase in mosquitoes that carry the disease, and Pugazhendi said “Before 2015 we used to have dengue only in the rainy season and then it would subside.”.
Climate change has also had an impact on non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, blood pressure and kidney disease.
Kidney diseases have increased by 80 percent in the last 10 years and this is causing socio-economic disruptors that can affect non-communicable diseases.
Seychelles is part of the 80 countries that have made commitments to the WHO-led Alliance for Transformative Action on Climate and Health (ATACH).
This will allow for a more focused approach to healthcare facilities that includes both efficiency and access to water sanitation and waste management.
WHO has been participating in the negotiations for over 15 years with the change coming in COP 26.
The countries that have committed to ATACH have access to bilateral donors and the World Bank, as well as a nutritional plan of action.