The low-lying features of many of the islands of The Bahamas make the country vulnerable to the effects of climate change including increased flooding, rising sea levels and higher temperatures, Minister of Health and the Environment, Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis told members of the World Health Assembly (W.H.A.).

Addressing the 61st World Health Assembly on Climate Change and Health, Dr. Minnis said environmental and health officials in The Bahamas “cannot deny” the burden climate change and its effects can have on healthcare and other systems in the country.

Dr. Minnis said the Government of The Bahamas is reviewing a number of measures to mitigate climate change.

“For us, flooding, more intense storms such as hurricanes, air pollution and rising sea levels are major causes of concern,” Dr. Minnis told the Assembly. “Other threats include increased temperatures, increased rainfall and droughts.”

The Health and Social Development Minister said The Bahamas will “not be immune” to the impact climate change will have on its neighbouring small-island developing states. He said the migration of populations “seeking easement from the effects of climate change” to The Bahamas will “no doubt” impact the country’s healthcare system.

“The ability to curtail the spread of, or prevent, the transmission of communicable diseases such as malaria, typhoid and vaccine-preventable diseases will be severely impaired,” Dr. Minnis said.

“It is important that all small-island developing states including The Bahamas benefit from technical expertise in the area of environmental sciences, research of environmental phenomena and the monitoring and evaluation of global events.

“Additionally, expertise will be needed in the areas of GIS (Geographic Information Systems), mapping, epidemiology, information gathering, research on population migration and new and emerging diseases. Such expertise will be critical in the development and implementation of strategies and health promotion and preventative measures related to the effects of climate change,” Dr. Minnis added.

Dr. Minnis told the Assembly that the further training of health personnel will be critical in the recognition, management and prevention of illnesses so as to minimize their impact on the population, healthcare system and the economy.

“There is widespread scientific consensus that the world’s climate is changing,” Dr. Minnis said. “The Bahamas supports the resolution and thanks the Executive Board for including attention to developing countries as well as small-island, developing states.”