Health and environment authorities as well as experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN Environment discussed today (7 November) a new framework to boost investments in public health and environment interventions across Africa.
With the Libreville Declaration on Health and the Environment for Africa adopted in 2008 by 52 countries in Africa, the need for joint environment and health initiatives has been well-recognized, but so far only limited financial resources have been available for such interventions. The new framework aims to stimulate government investments on large-scale health and environment development projects, which have the potential to impact socioeconomic development.
"I encourage colleagues from other countries to first identity their own gaps in terms of Health and Environment; by doing that, Uganda is making sure that all sectors integrate environment and health issues in their planning in their budgeting processes", said the representative from Uganda.
The framework provides guidance on funding proposals, advises on mechanisms that may be used to support the financing of key proposals and facilitates the strengthening of processes for resource planning and the management of effective interventions. It also calls for all investment proposals to be linked to national development plans, based on innovative and proven successes and to aim for large scale reach and impact.
" In the African Region, our national development planning is having a high level of inefficiency, we need to improve our systems by empowering the population - the first way to improve health financing is health promotion", said the representative from Ghana.
Over the last two decades, total health expenditure per capita has outstripped GDP growth by around 3% each year in Africa, as polluted drinking water, poor air quality and damaged ecosystems cause premature deaths, diseases and are a significant drag on economic growth.
With climate change, these challenges are set to intensify.
Yet more targeted investments that tie public health, environmental protection and wider socio-economic development together could offset the costs before they occur. WHO estimates that, in time, every dollar invested in sanitation could yield over a 6-fold return in avoided health costs and greater participation in Africa's labour markets.
"The days of economic growth at the expense of the environment must end for Africa," said Dr Magaran Bagayoko, Director of Communicable Diseases, WHO Africa. "In line with the visions laid out in 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union's Agenda 2063, we need urgent investments that tackle the health, environmental and socio-economic aspects of development in tandem. The benefits far outweigh the costs, and the new framework we've adopted today is a great step towards that."