What is GFCS and the Climate Services Adaptation Programme in Africa?

The Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) is an international coordination mechanism that enhances the quality, quantity, and application of climate services to meet decision needs in five key sectors: disaster risk reduction, energy, water resources, health, and agriculture and food security.

The Climate Services Adaptation Programme in Africa is the first GFCS project aimed at bolstering user-driven climate services for food security, disaster risk reduction and health in the African region.

The programme is led by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), and is implemented by a number of organisations. Different organisations involved in this partnership take responsibility for specific thematic areas and support their national counterparts. For the health component of the project, the World Health Organisation (WHO) provides policy and technical support to the Ministries of Health in Tanzania and Malawi.

Why is a focus on climate and health necessary?

Climate variability and change pose immediate threats to human health and wellbeing worldwide through a number of means, including:

  • Vector and water-borne diseases
  • Malnutrition
  • Disaster-related effects

In the African region, the health sector recognises that addressing these threats demands an ability to adapt to climate change. As a result, various Ministries of Health have taken steps to pass policies that support this goal. These include the Libreville Process for Health and Environment and the Framework for Public Health Adaptation to Climate Change in the African Region (AFR/RC61/10).

Policymakers need to be able to integrate climate change into health policy, and health managers and technical professionals need to be able to manage climate risks and adapt to climate change. In order to meet these needs, these individuals require information about the climate and how it affects health at different timescales, as well as the knowledge to use this information.

Unfortunately, in many highly vulnerable countries, such as Tanzania and Malawi, this information is either not available, is not being used, or the capacity and necessary cooperation needed to use available tools is lacking. This presents a barrier to effective climate risk management and climate adaptation.

What are the health-centric objectives of the Climate Services Adaptation Programme in Africa?

Over three years, this project will explore how health actors in Malawi and Tanzania can use climate information to inform health planning, research, and public health responses to climate-related health risks, such as cholera, malaria, malnutrition, and disasters.

Activities within the health component fall into seven categories, and take place at both the national and sub-national level. These seven categories are:

  • Mainstreaming Climate Change into Health Policy
  • Inter-sectoral coordination mechanisms for climate information
  • Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment
  • Capacity building
  • Awareness raising and risk communication
  • Developing and pilot testing two different climate services for health
  • Operational Research on health sector needs for climate services

The desired health-centric outcomes of the Climate Services Adaptation Programme in Malawi and Tanzania are:

  • Health policy-makers and professionals become aware of climate risks, as well as the existing policies, tools, resources, and solutions to better manage these risks.
  • The Ministry of Health take ownership to address climate change, and strengthen the continued partnership with National Met Services and other sectors to support these efforts.
  • Health priorities become integrated within UNFCCC National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), in order to improve climate change adaptation.
  • Capacity of health professionals to identify needs, communicate health risks, and use tailored climate products and services to support health adaptation is increased.
  • Health risks sensitive to climate change are assessed and prioritized, along with the existing capacity to use climate information for risk management.
  • Quality climate products become available and adopted as public health tools that improve health research, monitoring and epidemiological surveillance, early warning and preparedness, and health system strengthening, strengthening core elements of health risk management and adaptation.