Good morning. Thank you for participating in today’s press conference.
Last week, the Americas reported over 800,000 new COVID infections and 18,000 COVID-related deaths. This is the lowest COVID number in over a year.
There are reasons to be optimistic, but stay vigilant.
In North America, Central America, and South America, with a few exceptions, COVID infections and mortality are declining. Berry’s reported a surge in COVID-related deaths, doubling the number of COVID cases in Paraguay last week.
Many of the larger islands of the Caribbean are on a downward trend, including Cuba, which has managed large-scale COVID outbreaks for several months.
However, some small islands have just reached the peak of their first pandemic. Saint Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, Anguilla, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines report the highest COVID infections and COVID-related deaths.
As a result, especially many countries are struggling to expand the scope of vaccines, each country should continue to implement public health measures such as wearing masks, social distances and restrictions on large gatherings. Is important.
Today, nearly 44% of Latin American and Caribbean people have completed the COVID immunization course.
Today, twice as many people in Latin America and the Caribbean are fully vaccinated against COVID than in August of this year, mainly thanks to vaccine donations made bilaterally or through COVAX.
And while our region has done a great job of accelerating the extent of immunization in just a few months, more than half of the people in Latin America and the Caribbean remain unprotected.
In Guatemala, St. Vincent and the Grenadine, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Haiti, less than 20% are fully vaccinated.
Fortunately, however, more than 3 million doses arrive in our area through COVAX this week. And with deliveries expected to increase in the last few months of this year, we can continue to address vaccine inequity, one of the biggest challenges affecting our region.
But today, as leaders around the world head to Glasgow for the COP26 conference, I would like to talk about climate change, the greatest long-term threat to our public health.
The health of our planet and the health of our people are interrelated.
Worldwide, more than 12 million deaths are associated with environmental risk factors each year.
High temperatures and air pollution have led to an increase in cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses. Wildfires and droughts have led to crop failures, affecting the lives of agricultural workers and increasing food insecurity in our region.
Extreme weather and rising temperatures change our ecosystems, drive people out of their homes, and often force humans to invade their natural habitats and animals and move to more comfortable states. It has been. This has led to an increase in vector-borne diseases such as Zika fever and Chagas disease. Also, dengue fever, which normally follows a seasonal pattern, is detected outside the normal cycle as temperatures rise and the rainy season becomes longer.
And these episodes are increasing in size and frequency.
Children born today are expected to experience twice as many wildfires, nearly three times as many droughts and floods, and nearly seven times as many heat waves in their lifetime as children born in 1960.
Our healthcare system faces these threats and our primary responsibility is to “do no harm” to the same healthcare system and reduce our environmental footprint.
That is why this year’s Climate Summit encourages health to take the lead for the first time.
Prior to the summit, PAHO launched the Americas agenda on health, the environment and climate change. It provides countries with action plans to reduce the burden of environmental risks to local health. I would like to emphasize three points from this plan.
The first is the importance of collaboration.
Climate change is a health problem, just as it is a socio-political and economic problem. Therefore, these sectors need to work together to develop a more comprehensive readiness plan to address the health consequences of climate emergencies.
To better predict and prevent future threats, health and animal surveillance and climate and environmental information systems need to be integrated to build a more robust early warning system for future crises.
The second point I would like to say is that countries have to invest in their health care system.
As seen throughout the COVID pandemic, the success of our response depends on the ability of our healthcare system to adapt and expand to meet people’s needs. Therefore, countries need to invest in health systems to secure staff, training, and resources to face future climate risks.
However, the medical system must not only be robust, but also resilient.
PAHO will work with Caribbean member states to create safer, more environmentally friendly climate change-resistant facilities that can continue to function in the face of climate change and extreme events such as hurricanes and rising sea levels. I have built it.
But this brings me to my third point: health must be part of the solution.
The health sector itself is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and estimates suggest that it may be responsible for 5-10 percent of global carbon emissions. It can be improved by reducing the energy of health care facilities and carbon emissions from heating and cooling operations. You can also adapt your healthcare system by building more environmentally friendly facilities and reducing emissions at all stages of your supply chain, from production to transportation.
Climate change is a real and long-term threat that needs to be addressed through a lasting solution.
Extreme weather events that pose a health emergency are just one of the risks we face. Scientists have warned that if left untreated for a long time, climate change will change our environment, our food system, and our living conditions. All of these can have devastating consequences for our health.
The COVID-19 pandemic provided a snapshot of how unprepared we are for such a catastrophic event.
But today, we have the opportunity to build on the lessons learned from the COVID pandemic and strengthen our ability to prevent and respond to future crises.
I hope our leaders will grab that moment.
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