The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has announced that their six-year pioneering regional technical assistance initiative has helped reduce the threat posed by climate change to public health in Cambodia.

In a press release on July 19, ADB said strengthening climate change resilience in the health sector in the Greater Mekong sub-region had helped Cambodia adapt its national health sector to address risks posed by climate change including heat and communicable diseases such as dengue, malaria, heat stress and diarrhea.

The project also assisted the Cambodian government in identifying effective investments that would help reduce mortality and morbidity from climate change.

This assistance included the establishment of a primary heat warning system and the upgrading of weather-resistant health facilities, especially in remote areas and underserved communities.

The project was approved in 2015 with $4.4 million in grants from the Nordic Development Fund with additional financing from the governments of Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.

“The project has helped reduce Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam’s vulnerability to climate-induced health threats, especially among vulnerable populations, including the poor, migrants and ethnic minorities,” said ADB director of human and social development for Southeast Asia Ayako Inagaki in their press release.

The project is the first ADB initiative in Southeast Asia to improve the government’s response to the effects of climate change on healthcare.

ADB said their project has improved the timely collection of data for the government to monitor the impacts of climate change on public health with tools such as a database, a modeling approach and a digital atlas.

The project also trained national and provincial health workers on surveillance systems for climate-sensitive diseases, analysis of epidemiology data and health challenges unique to women, children, and other vulnerable groups, said the press release.

Along with the recently completed national plan to make the health system more resilient and to strengthen the capacity of Cambodian health workers, the country is now better equipped to protect communities against climate change amid the Covid-19 pandemic, ADB country director Sunniya Durrani-Jamal said in the press release.

Ministry of Health secretary of state and spokeswoman Or Vandine could not be reached for comment on July 20.

The effects of climate change are posing a huge risk to people’s health in Cambodia, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), despite the fact that the country has put in place a series of policies to help the health sector mitigate the growing impacts.

“There is an urgent need to further strengthen the health system to protect and improve the health of communities in an unstable and changing climate,” the WHO wrote on its website on July 20.