The Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum(GHACOF) is one of the most important meetings for the region. The 48th GHACOF, held February 12 -13 in Mombasa, Kenya, evaluated the impact of the October, November, December (OND) 2017 season and developed the consensus outlook for the March, April, May (MAM) 2018 season. Sectoral experts from 10 member states (Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda) discussed anticipated implications of the consensus climate outlook. Technical sectoral assessments defined related risks and developed mitigation strategies at national and regional levels, for key sectors: Health, Water Resources and Energy, Agriculture and Food Security, Livestock, Conflict Early Warning, and Disaster Risk Management. While the Health Sector has typically been an underrepresented sector of GHACOF meetings, GHACOF 48 was the most comprehensive and collaborative health assessment to date.
Dr MacKenzie Dove, a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellow, whose research focuses on operationalizing the integration of climate and weather information within health systems in East and West Africa, is working to increase the climate-health collaboration and coordination in the regions and develop mechanisms for enabling long-term integration. At GHACOF 48, Dr Dove, co-led the Health Sector analysis with WHO regional specialists, and the regional climate centre ICPAC. This facilitated the collaboration, exchange and multidisciplinary analysis of seasonal and sub-seasonal impacts on human and animal health. Importantly, a COF Health Working Group was established in order to support continued discussions and monthly information sharing among member states and regional actors, with a long-term aim to implement pre-COF climate-health training programs.
Dr Dove explains, “Myself and colleagues at WHO and ICPAC, have been working with key member states, technical experts and regional partners for the past few months to enhance: one, representation and participation of health sector experts at GHACOF; and two, to support the necessary mechanisms for actually integrating this health expertise within the climate outlooks. This is important information for policy makers, climate-health information users as well as regional actors. The work done by member states at this forum shows the commitment across the region to better address and prepare for climate-induced health burdens.”
The GHACOF Health Sector Steering Committee, of which Dr Dove is a founding member, is also working to implement a strategic ICPAC Health Platform to better support member states coordinate, develop predicative tools and periodic risk assessments, and share information. This Platform will further support efforts of the COF Health Working Group, prioritizing the importance of health in relation to regional climate change impacts. The ICPAC Health Platform is expected to be ratified by all members states at GHACOF 49.
Dr Dove continues, “Through the hard work of member states, regional partners and the Walker Institute, GHACOF 48 has put into place some exciting advancements for the health sector. This Forum has been fundamental to furthering the goals of improving integration of climate and health sectors through strengthening relationships across the region, building trust between sectors, and demonstrating the necessary leadership from ICPAC and WHO in order to support ongoing collaboration and knowledge exchange".
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