54 African countries meet to discuss environmental health threats

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By Joyce Remi- Babayeju

Ministers of Health and Environment from 54 African countries yesterday in Libreville, Gabon converged for the Third Interministerial Conference on health and Environment which starts from 6 to 9 November.

In a statement issued the conference jointly organized by the World Health Organization, WHO,and UN Environment will discuss how to turn health and environmental policies into action for the health benefits of Africans.

According to WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidisco Meoti attributed ill health of Africans to environmental factors.

Meoti said, 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.”

Dr. Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, UN Environment, Africa Office said, ‘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 Africans Agenda 2063 in a more cost-effective and beneficial manner.”

According to the statement, In the African region, 23% of deaths are linked to the environment which is the highest for any region in the world on a per capita basis, that is deaths per 100 000.

“While the continent has long been plagued by problems relating to access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor infrastructure, pollution, new environmental threats have emerged, including climate change and rapid and unplanned urbanization.”

Nearly 300 delegates including Health, Environment and Finance Ministers, as well as representatives from regional political and economic organizations, big cities, multilateral agencies and experts from 54 countries in Africa will participate in the Conference.

The conference comes a decade after the historic endorsement of the Libreville Declaration by the African Ministers of Health and Environment which committed governments to take the required measures to stimulate synergies between health, environment and other relevant sectors. It also comes ahead of the 2018 UN Biodiversity Conference to be held on African soil in Egypt this month and will discuss how to mainstream biodiversity into health sector, among other sectors.

By working together, the health and environment sectors have the potential to design mutually reinforcing policies and strategies and turning them into concrete actions, Koudenouokpo added.

The Conference consists of an expert meeting from 6 to 7 November 2018 and a ministerial segment to be held from 8 to 9 November, the statement added.

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