Vietnam's Efforts in Building Climate-Resilient Healthcare
December 5, 2023
Dubai, December 4, 2023 - Vietnam's Ministry of Health (MOH), United Nation Development Programmes (UNDP) and the World Health Organization organized a side event at the Vietnam Pavillion at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP28) on "Building a Climate-Resilient Health System in Vietnam." This side event took place in the context of the first ever Health Day and climate-health ministerial meeting at COP, focusing high-level political attention on the climate-health nexus, and mainstreaming health in the global climate change agenda.
Being highly vulnerable to climate impacts due to its geographical location, Vietnam experiences severe health challenges arising from climate-related disasters. Such events have led to direct and indirect health impacts, from the spread of infectious diseases to the strain on mental health and environmental well-being. The health sector has suffered increasing impacts in recent years, including damage to primary healthcare facilities from floods, storms, landslides and other climate-related disasters, exacerbating these challenges.
The Vietnamese government has implemented numerous policies to adapt to climate change, leveraging its position to drive socio-economic development. A notable step is the development of the National Action Plan for the Health Sector Response to Climate Change (2019-2030, with a vision to 2050), focusing on building resilient healthcare facilities and enhancing epidemic prevention and control measures. The plan also takes steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the health sector, noting that globally the health sector is estimated to account for around 4-5% of greenhouse gas emissions.
UNDP and MOH signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2018 on support to address climate change mitigation and adaptation of the health sector. In addition to supporting the development of the health sector’s climate action plan and incorporating health priority actions into Viet Nam’s overall climate response, UNDP has developed a practical model for solar-powered and climate-resilient commune health stations. In addition, with support from the Japanese Government, the Korean Government, USAID, and UNDP, UNDP has worked with MOH to implement the ‘Doctor for Everyone’ grassroots telehealth application to improve health access in climate-vulnerable mountainous, central coastal provinces, Mekong Delta and Central Highlands provinces - all provinces affected by climate and weather extremes.
A new project commencing in late 2023 will support Viet Nam to integrate climate change into Vietnam's One Health efforts on zoonotic diseases prevention and control, with support from USAID. UNDP is also supporting innovative approaches on greening and digitalization of health procurement, disease early warning systems, and improved waste management.
Speaking at the side event, Deputy Minister Le Duc Luan of Vietnam’s Ministry of Health affirmed Vietnam’s strong focus on climate and health: “This important event brings a better understanding of the context, challenges and risks posed by climate change to people’s health and to the health system in Viet Nam, as well as and the health sector’s policy and response. I hope that at today's side event, we will learn about practical examples of initiatives to protect people’s health and build a resilient health system and communities in the context of climate change in Viet Nam. We also look forward to hearing other experiences, good lessons, and suggestions from all of you, as well as receiving technical and financial support from development partners which can contribute to our future achievements in Viet Nam.”
Mr. Dao Xuan Lai - UNDP Head of Climate Change, Environment, and Energy Unit, highlighted the critical areas of the climate-health nexus, emphasizing how climate change affects health's social and environmental determinants, including clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food, and secure shelter. He presented innovative solutions to enhance climate resilience, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve access to clean energy in healthcare systems. This initiative includes developing climate-informed disease control and prevention programs, improving "last mile" preparedness, and implementing integrated climate-resilient and low-carbon solutions at selected healthcare facilities (HCFs).
"Developing climate-resilient and responsive commune health centers in highly vulnerable coastal areas and the low-lying Mekong Delta is very important. These centers are designed to withstand extreme weather events, featuring solar rooftop panels, battery storage, and telehealth function rooms to maintain health services during disasters," he said.
WHO's input emphasized the importance of health governance, sustainable health systems, and integrating climate change into the health sector's overall response. The Vietnamese government's efforts in developing and enhancing its National Adaptation Plan, including health sector priorities, were also highlighted.
The side event encapsulated the urgency of integrating climate change adaptation into healthcare. It showcased Vietnam's efforts in creating resilient health systems and communities, focusing on the most vulnerable populations. The collaborations and innovations presented at COP28 demonstrate a comprehensive approach to tackling the dual challenges of climate change and public health in Viet Nam.