AS THE world gradually resurfaces from the impact of the coronavirus, important decisions must be made to determine a just, humane, and healthy future for the people.

Globally, the Covid-19 pandemic has not only presented to us the numerous vulnerabilities within our healthcare system, emergency response, governance, and communities. It has most especially reiterated that our health and safety (including the planet's) must be at the front and center of both response and recovery.

This is more than true in marginalized regions in countries of Southeast Asia, where countries like the Philippines are already reeling from preexisting climate change-related problems like air pollution, food insecurity, sea-level rise, and global warming.

A healthy recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, that directs any stimulus measures towards strengthening the health system and expanding clean, sustainable industries and jobs, will reduce these problems and make our economy more resilient to future shocks - be it a pandemic or a tropical storm.

Covid-19, climate change, and healthcare

In this period of a global pandemic and a preexisting climate crisis converged with the increasing number of PPE (personal protective equipment) and single-use plastic waste, a large chunk of society is now more vulnerable to the coronavirus and other related illnesses and will have a hard time adapting and coping to the challenges of one of the biggest health threat of the 21st century.

Disasters and disease outbreaks are known to harm people's health and disrupt their lives. This puts to challenge the healthcare system in the Philippines that is fundamentally unprepared for climate-induced pandemics.

Health care climate action as part of the regional recovery plan

The pandemic showed us that the normal we are used to was unsustainable and destructive, and if continued, alongside the lack of inclusive solutions for the current crisis, will only mean permanent destruction of human lives and our planet.

In this part of the world where environmental and health issues like climate change, plastic, and air pollution mean health inequity, lack of resilient health infrastructures, insufficient government budget prioritization, deplorable working conditions, gender inequality, and even food insecurity, it is imperative for the healthcare sector, to lead the just and healthy recovery plan. Meaning, call for the protection of the people's health through the transition to renewable energy, strengthening sustainable waste management systems, investing in climate-resilient health facilities, employing green healthcare procurement policies, advancing health information systems, and educating the public of the dangers of climate change inaction.

As a concluding realization, one of the messages that came out of the Covid-19 pandemic is the need to save our planet from man-made pollution like those that come from extractive, carbon-emitting industries especially coal-fired power plants and fossil fuel extraction. Let the skies remain blue, the surroundings clean, and the people healthy. (Pats Oliva)


Pats Oliva is a Communications Campaigner of Health Care without Harm Southeast Asia.