By: Chalsey Gill Anthony, Communications Assistant, Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCC)
“When I was living in Jamaica, it didn’t rain for a few months. Dr. Ayana Alexander, a medical doctor and public health expert from Trinidad and Tobago, said there were severe water restrictions on the water we received.
Dr. Iskandar has seen with his own eyes the devastating effects of water scarcity on the health of her patients. Working in the pediatric emergency room, she observed that children were especially prone to dehydration and gastrointestinal diseases. “It was especially difficult for young children who were not able to adapt to the disease and recover quickly.” But she said she didn’t make the connection with climate change at the time.
Dr. Alexander completed his internship in Belize earlier this year with CCCC, a West Indies Climate Change and Health Leaders Fellowship Program in the EU/CARIFORUM Strengthening Health Systems for Climate Resilience in the Caribbean project.
While in Belize, Dr. Alexander shared her views as a supporter of CARICOM. It’s frustrating to see big countries with lots of resources not meeting their reduction targets, but as Small Island Developing States (SIDS) we can use our bloc to make positive changes. Dr. Alexander continued, “We can’t just sit back and wait for change to happen, we have to be an example to the world. Moving away from a reactionary view of health and focusing on social and environmental issues will keep us healthy.” And a stronger population.
The Caribbean region is no stranger to the devastating effects of climate change, and the impact on the region’s water resources is significant, posing a serious threat to public health. Increasingly intense storms and hurricanes, rising sea levels and droughts all contribute to water pollution, pollution, dehydration and the spread of waterborne diseases.
Hurricane Maria in 2010 The impact on Puerto Rico in 2017 is a prime example of how water supply systems are leaving hospitals and clinics without clean drinking water, creating a host of waterborne diseases that put vulnerable populations at risk of serious health problems.
In addition to hurricanes, coastal flooding and sea level rise can cause salt water to contaminate freshwater sources, making it difficult for people to access drinking water sources. Water scarcity caused by climate-induced dry seasons reduces sanitation and hygiene practices, which exacerbates the spread of waterborne and foodborne diseases. “When water is scarce, farmers struggle to provide food,” Dr. Alexander added. He also said, “We have had cases where farmers water their plants with impure water, which increases the risk of disease.”
The quantity and quality of fresh water sources, such as surface and groundwater, are also being affected, leading to scarcity and increased costs of accessing water. SIDS in the region, which rely heavily on rainwater harvesting, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of reduced rainwater availability. In addition, extreme weather events can lead to power outages, disrupting water treatment plants and making it difficult for people to access water.
In 2019 and 2020, the island suffered months of severe drought. Dr. Adrian Cashman, a water resources management expert and chair of the Global Water Partnership-Caribbean (GPPA), basks in the scorching sun in Barbados. -c) Technical Committee, reflects Barbados’ severe water scarcity. The drought has prompted the Barbados Water Authority to implement community reservoirs in remote areas such as St. John, St. Lucie and St. Andrews. Talking about the psychological impact on the communities, Dr. Cashman said, “Uncertainty of getting water from communal tanks meant that people could neither bathe nor bathe. Some had to rely on going to the homes of friends or relatives to prepare for work. It was a daily struggle.”
As climate change continues to wreak havoc on the Caribbean’s water resources, Dr. Cashman noted the need to better understand the impacts of climate change by including some of the gaps the region faces and climate change projections into hydrologic models. There is a need for long-term planning and a rethinking of the region’s approach to wastewater management.
Despite these challenges and gaps, Dr. Cashman remains optimistic that solutions can be found. “In the Caribbean, there is momentum to address water management issues and new solutions are being developed to adapt to a changing climate,” said Dr Cashman. “Furthermore, efforts are being made to mobilize finance to implement solutions that will show improvement in water management activities in the region.”
The link between climate change, water resources and public health is clear, and prioritizing water safety and security for everyone in the region is critical.
Most recently, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCC), funded by the European Union under the Intra-ACP GCCA+ program in the Caribbean: Improving Climate Resilience in CARIFORM countries, installed several water storage tanks in schools, health centers in St. Kitts and Nevis. and disaster shelters. Ms. June Hughes, Director of Environment for St. Kitts and Nevis, said climate change has made water scarcity common in the twin island federation. “The tanks provide a plan B and a second source. Previously, after the water was cut off in the schools, they had to send school children home,” says Ms. Hughes, “because you can’t do without water.”
The water crisis in the Caribbean is a concern for schools, as shortages can disrupt daily activities and affect students’ well-being. By providing alternative water sources, we can protect educational opportunities and ensure safe learning environments. As climate change continues to affect water resources and pose a threat to public health, action is imperative. Let’s advocate for sustainable practices, support water conservation efforts and actively participate in efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. Together, we can make a difference, protect our communities and protect our precious water resources for a safe and healthy future.
Dr. A.S. Ayana Alexander, Medical Doctor and Public Health Practitioner from Trinidad and Tobago.
Dr. Adrian Cashman, Water Resources Management Expert and Chair of the Global Water Partnership-Caribbean (GWP-C) Technical Committee
Ms. June Hughes, Director of Environment from St. Kitts and Nevis