A Call for Action released today by United Nations (UN) agencies ahead of the global Conference of the Parties (COP28) negotiations on climate change in Dubai emphasizes that pregnant women, babies, and children face severe health risks from climate catastrophes, demanding urgent attention.
The document, titled "Protecting maternal, newborn, and child health from the impacts of climate change," asserts that the effects of climate events on maternal and child health have been neglected, underreported, and underestimated. It points out the absence of maternal and child health considerations in many countries' climate change response plans, deeming it a "glaring omission" and indicative of inadequate attention to women, newborns, and children in the climate change discourse.
Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director General for Universal Health Coverage, Life Course at the World Health Organization (WHO), stresses that while climate change poses an existential threat to everyone, pregnant women, babies, and children bear some of the gravest consequences. The year 2023 has seen a series of devastating climate disasters, including wildfires, floods, heatwaves, and droughts, with dire consequences for pregnant women and children.
The Call for Action proposes seven urgent actions to address these escalating risks, including sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, action on climate finance, and the specific inclusion of the needs of pregnant women, babies, and children in climate and disaster-related policies. It also calls for increased research to better understand the impacts of climate change on maternal and child health.
The WHO, UNICEF, and UNFPA released the Call for Action at an online launch event alongside an advocacy brief by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (PMNCH). The PMNCH advocacy brief further reinforces the Call for Action by outlining specific recommendations for various stakeholders, emphasizing the non-negotiable nature of safeguarding the health and rights of women, children, and adolescents in the face of the climate crisis. The upcoming COP28 meetings will mark the first-ever Day of Health, recognizing the interconnections between the health of people and the planet.