#WorldEnvironmentDay. People are exposed to risk factors that affect their health in their homes, work places and communities.The Protection of the Human Environment Programme provides guidance and technical support to Member States of the WHO African Region to formulate, implement, monitor and evaluate policies, strategies and action plans that are effective in addressing health and environment linkages, in view of achieving the MDGs and in the context of the Libreville Declaration on health and environment in Africa.
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Improving the environment – provision of safe water, safe sanitation, management of vectors of public health interest – remains one of the most key interventions in pursuit of improved health outcomes for the populations in the African Region.
Environmentally linked illnesses are amongst the top plaguing the lives of the populations in particular the very young and vulnerable groups within communities.
Air pollution remains one of the leading causes of child morbidity, traffic accidents claim millions of lives and occupational injuries and illness are a factor in contributing towards poverty and reduced life expectancy.
Vector borne diseases such as malaria and schistosomiasis are still among the major health problems due to proliferation of vectors as a result of, among others, ill-planned development and climate change.
Over the past two decades policy, legislative and regulatory frameworks that address environment–health linkages have been developed. Their effective implementation however, has been extremely limited.
Today Africa continues to face environmental challenges of the pre-industrial era, industrialization and of the twenty-first century, all in the context of strained public health systems.
Key challenges faced by Member States include:
- The contribution and benefits of the environment to other determinants of health are not well understood by policy makers and planners;
- Awareness to be brought to African health sector personnel on mounting burden of disease from environmental health risks in the continent;
- Prioritising health and highlighting the health costs and benefits of the actions of key decision-makers within economic sectors at the centre of decision-making processes;
- Engagement of stakeholders to ensure translation of environment and health related policy, legislative and regulatory frameworks to practice;
- Bringing recognition to the contribution of reduced environmental hazards to the achievement of the relevant MDGs as well as socio-economic development to the attention of development partners.