ADB program boosts health-system climate resilience in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia

By Minh Nga   July 19, 2021 | 07:01 pm PT
ADB program boosts health-system climate resilience in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia
A hospital in Quang Binh Province in central Vietnam is flooded in October, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
A recently ended regional technical assistance initiative has boosted the capacity of health systems in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to respond to climate-induced health threats.

The six-year project by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Strengthening Resilience to Climate Change in the Health Sector in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), helped the three countries adopt national health adaptation plans to address weather-related health risks like heat-related and communicable diseases such as dengue, malaria, heat stress, and diarrhea.

The project was approved in 2015 with a $4.4 million grant from the Nordic Development Fund, a Nordic international finance institution, and counterpart financing from the three governments.

It was the ADB's first initiative in Southeast Asia to improve government responses to the impacts of climate change on healthcare.

All three countries were actively involved in the technical assistance preparation, implementation, capacity-building activities, and knowledge sharing, the bank said in a statement on Monday.

The project enabled timely data gathering for governments to monitor the impacts of climate change on public health, and operate tools such as a database, a modeling approach, and a digital atlas.

It also trained national and provincial health staff in surveillance systems for climate-sensitive diseases, analyses of epidemiology data and health challenges unique to women, children and other vulnerable groups.

In all, the project completed detailed vulnerability and adaptation assessments for 14 high-risk provinces in the three countries and trained more than 1,300 health workers, and saw more than 600 policymakers from the public and private sectors participating in high-level advocacy meetings and workshops on national health adaptation strategies and coordination of disease surveillance and responses.

It also helped the governments identify cost-effective investments to reduce mortality and morbidity caused by diseases related to climate change like establishing early heat warning systems and upgrading health facilities to be more climate-resilient, especially in remote, underserved communities.

"The project has helped reduce Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam's vulnerability to climate-induced health threats, especially among vulnerable populations, including the poor, migrants and ethnic minorities," ADB’s director of human and social development for Southeast Asia, Ayako Inagaki, said.

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