April 25, 2022 (Honolulu, HI) – The Palau Minister of Health and Human Services (MOHHS) and PIHOA Board Vice President, the Honorable Gaafar Uherbelau, and Ms. Emi Chutaro, PIHOA Secretariat Executive Director, met with Assistant Secretary Monica Medina, the U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs and her team, as a side meeting to the Our Ocean Conference in Koror, Palau that took place April 13-14, 2022. 

Minister Uherbelau shared key climate and environment impacts and other priorities for the Palau MOHHS. Minister Uherbelau noted that the current location of the Belau National Hospital, Palau’s only hospital, located on a small peninsula surrounded by the sea, leaves it highly vulnerable to storms and sea-level rise. Minister Uherbelau and Ms. Chutaro further discussed with Assistant Secretary Medina the expansion of PIHOA’s DOS-funded cooperative agreement, Diminishing Dengue with Climate Services, to Palau. The project is currently implemented in Yap, FSM, and the RMI. The project’s primary goal is to set up predictive models for an early warning system (EWS) assessing dengue risk based on climate indicators. 

The purpose of the EWS will be to provide local health agencies with more accurate and timely predictions to assess the potential for dengue and other arboviral disease outbreaks that can severely impact vulnerable Pacific Island communities. The EWS will aim to provide local health agencies with sufficient lead time for detecting high-risk outbreak scenarios to implement mosquito vector control planning and prevention activities in a timely manner to minimize impacts on human health. Assistant Secretary Medina acknowledged the importance of this project for the Pacific and her support for expanding the project to Palau. Assistant Secretary Medina also praised Palau’s response to COVID-19 and very high vaccination rates.