Belgian Platform for International Health    ENG | FR

Be-cause health conference 2021

Climate Justice and Health Equity

What can be done?

Final speech

Meryame Kitir (Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation and Major Cities Policy)

Speech notes Meryame Kitir

Dear friends

Climate change is the biggest challenge that we, our children and grandchildren will face in the coming years. The effects of climate change are already a reality today. The air that we breathe, the water we drink, our food, and our shelters and security. All will be separately affected, and they are key determinants of our health.

Without climate justice, health equity will not be possible, they’re all connected. Climate change affects us all differently and the poorest bear the heaviest burden. Today, Africa concentrates a large part of the most devastating effects of climate change, while it emits less than 4% of greenhouse gases.

The WHO estimated that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths a year. Malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress will affect our population with a larger magnitude than today. Areas with weak health infrastructure, mostly in developing countries, will be the least able to cope, prepare and respond.

The COVID pandemic is another example of how human activity can alter every corner of our planet, bringing humans into contact with new diseases. 75% of all emerging infectious diseases in humans cross from animals. And that’s why we must reduce the risk of future epidemics and pandemics by restoring lost ecosystems and biodiversity, by fighting climate change and reducing population.

There is an urgent need to reduce the effect of global warming, because if we don’t, all the efforts and progress we make on global health will be useless. And this is why cooperation and partnerships are so important, to join efforts and co-create solutions.

So dear friends, as you know climate change is one of the priorities of my policy. Our focus is on adaptation in the least developed countries, because the local populations in those countries are the most vulnerable, and systems, including for health care, are the most fragile and not always resilient to crises.

Food, security and climate crisis in Africa are real and devastating. And I have seen it with my own eyes when I was on a mission in Burkina Faso and Senegal some weeks ago. And I have decided to raise the Belgian development cooperation annual contribution to international climate finance from 70 million euros a year to at least 112.5 million euros next year.

I have also decided to launch a new climate partnership in the Sahel. Over the next 5 years, together with our partner countries; Mali, Niger, Senegal and Burkina Faso, we will restore 40,000 hectares of land. At least 650,000 people will benefit directly from this action and will be better prepared for the consequences of climate change. Rainy seasons should no longer spell hunger.

So dear friends, I would like to underline the importance of events such as this one, organised by Be-cause health and its members. This conference is an important opportunity for professionals and partners of different countries to come together and look for solutions on how to improve our actions.

We need to ensure that health programmes implemented by the Belgian international cooperation use environment and climate sensitive lenses to mitigate effects on public health. But also that our programmes focusing on adaptation measures to climate change use available health information and health determinants.

So dear friends, I hope that the conference has been productive and insightful for all participants and more importantly that it will lead to concrete partnerships and results.

Thank you for listening!