Woman in Madagascar takes a folded mosquito net from a health care worker.
USAID’s CRM process aims to proactively address the challenges posed by a changing climate. This could take the form in improving the monitoring and prediction of malaria epidemics.

Accounting for climate risks in the health sector

By Stephan Hardeman

Climate change and variability have impacts on human health, especially in developing countries. Extreme weather events, increased temperatures, as well as changes in precipitation and sea level rise can all combine in a variety of ways to undermine development gains and impede progress. As a means of identifying and addressing the changing needs of the health sector, among others, USAID has been systematically integrating climate risk management (CRM) into all of its strategies, projects, and activities since 2015. CRM is the process of assessing, addressing, and adaptively managing climate risks that may impact the ability of USAID programs to achieve objectives.

One way USAID accounts for climate risk in the health sector is by integrating climate and weather information into health sector programming. USAID can then identify the most appropriate actions to limit the impacts of climate risks on health.

One of the first activities to undergo USAID’s CRM process was the global Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Project, where program designers integrated climate risk considerations into the solicitation document that was developed and released under the project. By integrating climate-smart strategies, the project aimed to expand the development, application, and research of climate-smart approaches in all the disciplines affecting nutrition, including health, family planning, agriculture, water, sanitation, food safety, and education.

In October 2015, USAID updated guidance to better systematize the consideration of climate variability and change in the development of country and regional strategies. “A systems approach can help strengthen the health resilience of individuals, communities, and health systems to climate change,” said Geoff Blate, Climate Change Program Specialist at USAID. “CRM provides an organized framework that helps health practitioners and development teams systematically assess, address, and adaptively manage climate risks.”

For example, integration of climate and weather information is a priority in Mozambique and Tanzania. National governments there are creating linkages between the health ministries and the meteorological departments to improve the use of weather and climate information for infectious disease forecasting. This allows health officials to take a more effective, proactive approach to disease control, rather than rely on less effective, reactive methods.

CRM aims to strengthen program impact and ensure that USAID’s investments lead to lasting results. Since the effectiveness of CRM depends on broad ownership by program design teams, as well as implementers, USAID is working to facilitate the application of CRM through capacity building, awareness raising, and dissemination of technical resources.

The CRM portal on Climatelinks serves as an entry point for practitioners interested in applying CRM practices to their own work, and sector-specific annexes are available to ensure that it is widely applied across programs.

USAID has also developed tools to support climate risk screening and management in strategy, project, and activity design. The tools are some of the most downloaded resources on Climatlinkes, and many are available in Spanish. The portal also features a short video that provides an overview of CRM. The “What is the CRM Process?” e-learning course provides a more robust breakdown of how CRM is being applied to USAID’s program cycle. Finally, “How to do CRM” complements the e-learning course by providing numerous resources in a narrative format.

Click here to access a page listing all CRM resources, tools, and trainings available on Climatelinks.

Strategic Objective
Health, Climate Risk Management, Climate Change, Adaptation

Stephan Hardeman

Stephan Hardeman is the Site and Community Manager for Climatelinks. He draws on more than five years of experience in communications for international environmental trust funds to support Climatelinks through USAID’s Sharing Environment and Energy Knowledge (SEEK) initiative by engaging the Climatelinks community and featuring its work. Stephan has MAs in International Affairs (American University) and Natural Resources and Sustainable Development (United Nations University for Peace) and BAs in English and Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.

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