Statement to the 72 WHO Regional Committee for Western Pacific
Provisional Agenda item 14.3: Climate change, the environment and health
On Behalf of Public Services International
"I am Dr Basil Leodoro of the Vanuatu Association for Public Service Employees. I speak on behalf of Public Services International, the global union for workers who deliver public services and represents health workers at the WHO.
The impact of rising sea levels and extreme weather events are already particularly acute for Pacific Island countries. Health workers are on the frontline of this crisis and through their unions must be engaged as a key party by WHO western pacific in the planning and delivery of any interventions.
Extreme climate events, like the category 5 storm Tropical Cyclone Harold in 2020 that hit Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and Solomon Islands that destroyed tens of thousands of homes and crops and resulted in 27 lives lost, put further strain on under resourced public health system and saw health workers scrambling to meet health needs of impacted communities.
Here in Vanuatu our health system and our healthcare workers are still recovering after 12-months after the disaster. Universal health care run and operated by the state and staffed by trained public employees is fundamental for climate resilience.
Too often the proposed solutions to the impacts of the climate crisis focus on market-based and privatised service provision. Such an approach is ad-hoc, high-risk, does not create decent work and increases the cost of essential services for citizens.
As member states build Covid Recovery strategies, we call on them to focus on investments in public health and care that create resilience, decent work, and public investments away from carbon intensive industries that cause climate change.