Libreville — African ministers of health and environment agreed today on a 10-year strategic plan to increase investment and accelerate joint health and environment priorities.
The Strategic Action Plan to Scale Up Health and Environment Interventions in Africa 2019 - 2029 to the African Union was adopted at the closing of the Third Interministerial Conference on Health and Environment held in the Gabonese capital from 6 to 9 November.
The Prime Minister of Gabon, Franck Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet, said "We must go further, particularly in terms of mobilizing material and financial resources for the implementation of national plans, but also in terms of clarifying and sharing responsibilities."
Nearly one in four premature deaths in Africa are linked to the environment and climate change threatens to increase the number of health emergencies and outbreaks in the coming years. African leaders have recognized the need for health and environment sectors to work together since the 2008 Libreville declaration and in 2010 the Luanda Declaration led to the creation of the Health and Environment Strategic Alliance, which is viewed as a pathmaker.
"The Health and Environment Strategic Alliance in Africa represents a powerful model of multisectoral partnership, which is exactly what we need to achieve the sustainable development goals," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General in a video message.
Ministers agreed to strengthen policy frameworks and institutional mechanisms for more integrated interventions as well as develop innovative platforms for funding, including more domestic resources allocated to joint actions on health and environment.
Rapid and unplanned urbanization and industrialization in Africa is increasing the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke.
"We must act on air pollution, the biggest killer of humans that causes 7 million deaths annually on our planet. Governments, businesses and citizens are stepping up responses to pollution and environment degradation, but we need to do far more, "said Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment Programme.
"There are inspiring examples across Africa. We must take the opportunity to share best practices and learn from each other. We need urgent, large scale and coordinated actions. We need to scale-up government and private sector investments. Together we can beat pollution and improve the health of our citizens," he added.
Supported by the World Health Organization, UN Environment Programme and development partners, the action plan can positively change the course of sustainable development in Africa.
"A penny saved today in avoiding the prevention of ill health, is a pound spent tomorrow on rising hospital bills, lost work days, and cleanup costs," said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's Regional Director for Africa. "We need a new business model based on an integrated approach to programming and service delivery."
The economic cost of premature deaths from air pollution is estimated at $450 billion. The economic loss due to the lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation is estimated to be 5 per cent of the region's gross domestic product.
The return on investment in health and environment will have significant social and economic impact for Africa. For instance, the benefits from eliminating lead in gasoline on a global scale have been estimated at $2.45 trillion per year, saving an estimated 1 million premature deaths per year.
The Ministers at the conference called on the President of Gabon as host country to present the strategic action plan for endorsement by the African Union and the outcomes will provide invaluable inputs to the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly to be held from 11 to 15 March 2019 in Nairobi.
About UN Environment
UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.
The World Health Organization contributes to a better future for people everywhere. Good health lays the foundation for vibrant and productive communities, stronger economies, safer nations and a better world. Our work touches people's lives around the world every day. As the lead health authority within the United Nations system, we help ensure the safety of the medicines and vaccines that treat and protect us, the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink; and we support countries to prepare for and respond to disease outbreaks and emergencies. We aim to provide every child, woman and man with the best chance to lead a long, healthy and fulﬁlled life. We listen to countries and monitor health trends to work out what needs to be done to protect human health. We use the best scientiﬁc evidence available to establish the most effective ways to prevent, treat and cure health problems. The vision of health for all is no longer a dream, but an achievable concrete reality.