Editorial comment – Seriously addressing climate change

Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr. Ifereimi Waqainabete meets with participants at the Fiji College of General Practitioners 27th Annual Conference awards night at Shangri-La Fijian Resort & Spa in Sigatoka. Picture: FT FILE/BALJEET SINGH

THIS issue of climate change certainly is developing into one we can no longer shrug aside.

There are just too many links.

It threatens our very existence and as the Minister for Health Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete said, diseases that stem from climate-related events have the ability to kill within a matter of days.

That is frightening.

It will come as a shock for many people.

That’s the harsh reality of our lives though and the period we live in now.

Dr Waqainabete made the comment while speaking to more than 200 doctors at the 27th Fiji College of General Practitioners annual conference on Friday.

He said with so much focus on NCDs, doctors should not lose sight of the impact of communicable diseases in the aftermath of major climate events.

It is a known fact, he said, that climate change posed a significant threat to human life, “not in the future but today, right now”.

As the climate continues to change, he said, the risk to human health grows, exacerbating existing health threats and creating new public health challenges, impacting more people in more places.

On the same breath, he revealed 30 medical facilities have to be relocated because of the impact of climate change on vulnerable communities.

Dr Waqainabete said the medical fraternity could not ignore climate change because of its impact on health and infrastructure.

Climate change, he pointed out, was expected to alter the geographical and seasonal distribution of existing vectors and vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue and other diseases spread by mosquitoes.

Medical practitioners, he said, had to be on par with global community news responding to challenges brought about by climate change.

Communicable diseases, he said, would never be eliminated.

He sounded a warning about the need for vigilance against the backdrop of climate change.

He said, in the increasingly interconnected world we live in now, we must also remain constantly alert to the threats of new emerging diseases such as Ebola, Zika, chikungunya, avian influenza and the re-emergence of diseases such as measles.

That takes this issue to a different level altogether.

Seriously, we cannot just shrug aside any talk of climate change.

The roll-on effects are terrible for many reasons.

It is in our best interest to be proactive.

It is in our best interest to be actively engaged in discussions on climate change.

We must be part of the solution even if it appears overwhelming sometimes.

Let’s make this our business.

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