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Success at the KEMRI 2nd Health and Climate Conference

Key guests and participants of the Conference pose for a photo after the official opening

The much-awaited 2nd Health and Climate Change conference took place in Diani, Kwale county at a crucial time when the effects of climate change are becoming more and more apparent and concerning.

The theme of the conference, “Towards Delivery of Climate Resilient Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Leveraging on Blue and Green Economy” encapsulated the need to advance our healthcare systems in a way that not only withstands the challenges posed by climate change but also harnesses the potential of sustainable practices.

The aim of the conference that began on 28th to 30th August, 2023 was to educate the public and healthcare professionals about the health effects of Environment, Air Pollution, Climate Change, and how climate change policy and consumption choices influence the health of our communities.

Additionally, the conference which brought together policymakers shaping legislation, researchers uncovering new insights, scientists and individuals navigating was expected to be a call to practical action.

The Conference was officially opened by the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Mining, Blue Economy and Maritime Affairs, H.E Salim Mvurya who was represented by the Director General, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KEMFRI), Prof. James Njiru.

Key dignitaries present at the opening ceremony of the 2nd Health and Climate Change Conference
A section of the delegates following the proceedings of the Conference

In his speech, read by Prof. Njiru, Hon. Mvurya said enhancing resilience to climate change (adaptation) and reducing contribution to climate change (mitigation) in the sector was essential for enhanced socio-economic development. Noting that promotion of sustainable fishing and aquaculture was significant for the protection of Blue Economy resources in the changing climate.

“Under National Climate Change Action Plan III (2023-2027), the State Department for the Blue Economy and Fisheries has projected to improve the productivity of fisheries through implementation of Climate Smart blue interventions. One of them is to increase fishers benefitting from social safety net interventions to 20,600.” Read part of his speech.

Speaking at the same event, KEMRI Ag. Director General, Prof. Elijah Songok said that KEMRI has been focusing on making sure that efforts to provide Universal Health Coverage (UHC) take climate change into account.

“We want to make sure that the health disparities caused by climate change are minimized in our own institutional carbon footprint, communities and across the country. This conference is one way we are working towards finding solutions that bridge health and climate change. We recognise through our research that health and climate change are interconnected challenges that require a multidisciplinary approach. Everyone here today has an important role to play. The choices we make today will determine the quality of life for generations to come. Our capability to protect both the environment and human well-being represents a crucial challenge of our time.” He stated.

Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KEMFRI), Director General Prof. James Njiru who represented the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Mining, Blue Economy and Maritime Affairs, HE. Salim Mvurya at the 2nd Health and Climate Change Conference
Key delegates at the Climate Change Conference.

His remarks were resounded by KEMRI Board of Directors Chairman, Dr. Abdullahi Ali, who said, there was a need for relevant key stakeholders to join hands since no single entity or sector could tackle climate change challenges in isolation.

“By joining forces and working together, we can amplify our efforts and make a more significant impact. It is essential that our solutions are equitable and inclusive. Vulnerable communities often bear the brunt of both climate change and health disparities. Therefore, as we develop strategies, we must ensure that no one is left behind and that our solutions address these inequities head-on. Throughout this conference, we hope to define the strategies that will facilitate mainstreaming and integration of energy, air pollution and climate change into the Universal Health Coverage planning, programming and implementation. This isn’t just about improving healthcare management, but also about being proactive in safeguarding our health from potential threats.” He emphasized.

The impactful Conference officially came to an end on 30th August, 2023 having attained the objective of the Conference. The delegates discussed a myriad of topics including but not limited to Biodiversity, Blue Economy, One health and nature-based solutions, Environment and Air pollution.

In her closing remarks, the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Forestry, Hon. Soipan Tuya in a speech that was read by the National Environment Trust Fund (Net fund) Board Chairman, Bishop David Mwaure Waihiga in her absence, appreciated the efforts by various ministries, stakeholders and delegates whose invaluable contributions had enriched the discourse of conference.

KEMRI Ag. Director General Prof. Elijah Songok giving his remarks during the closing ceremony
A section of the delegates following the proceedings of the Conference

“I am pleased that during these three-day deliberations, the conference delegates have recommended the following actions to be discussed further at the Africa Climate summit;

  1. Creation and promotion of knowledge management platform for sharing information, skills, and technology to increase effectiveness for addressing climate change and impact on various sectors such as health, agriculture/livestock, water, environment, and energy. 
  2. In addition to the recently reviewed ambient air quality regulations, there is need for the Ministries of Labor and Health to develop indoor air quality standards, and regulations.
  3. MOH through KEMRI has led the way in holding health and climate conference. It is necessary for other sectors to take the challenge and come up with sector and climate change specific conferences.” Read part of her speech.

The deliberations and recommendations from the conference are expected to be tabled at the Africa Climate Change Summit that is being championed by His Excellency President William Ruto from 4th to 6th September 2023.

The Chair of the 2nd Health and Climate Change committee, Ms. Sophie Matu expressed her gratitude to the Ministries of Health and Environment for joining hands in ensuring the conference was a success. She further appreciated the delegates and all participants who graced the conference noting that the 3rd Health and Climate Change will even be better.

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