More than 23 per cent of deaths in Africa are linked to the environment, the World Health Organisation has said.
According to WHO, this is the highest for any region on a per capita basis (deaths per 100 000).
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa says that while the continent has long been plagued by problems relating to access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor infrastructure and pollution, new environmental threats have emerged, including climate change and rapid and unplanned urbanisation.
“From the air we breathe to the water we drink, to the places we live and work, the environment is intimately linked to our health. Unfortunately for millions of Africans, the environment can make them sick and even kill them. With climate change, this is likely to only get worse. We must urgently turn this situation around,” Moeti says.
According to Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo from the UN Environment Africa office, tackling the interlinkages between environment and human health can provide a common platform and multiplier effect to sustain progress across many of the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063 in a more cost-effective and beneficial manner.
“By working together, the health and environment sectors have the potential to design mutually reinforcing policies and strategies and turning them into concrete actions,” Koudenoukpo says.
This comes as African Ministers of health and environment meet this week for the Third Interministerial Conference on Health and Environment from November 6 to 9 in Libreville, Gabon.
The conference jointly organized by WHO and UN Environment will discuss how to turn health and environmental policies into action.
It aims to identify emerging environmental threats to people’s health and agree on a strategic action plan for the region.