By Blessing David
The World Health Organization WHO estimates that more than 13 million deaths globally occur annually from environmental causes, including climate crisis, climate change which is negatively impacting air, water quality, food security, human habitat and shelter.
As such the World Health Day has been observed annually on 7 April, since 1950, to commemorate the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) two years previously.
Deputy Country Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Alexander Chimbaru,disclosed this at a press briefing in Abuja to commemorate this year’s World Health Day.
He said this year’s theme, “Our Planet, Our Health”, serves as a timely reminder of the inextricable link between the planet and our health, as the burden of non communicable and infectious diseases rises alongside growing incidence of climate-related challenges.
WHO says Climate change is manifesting in increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, changing rainfall patterns, and more frequent severe extreme weather conditions.
The knock-on effect for the burden of heart and lung disease, stroke and cancer, among others, is evident from statistics that point to NCDs representing a growing proportion of Africa’s disease burden.
In the African Region, NCDs are set to overtake communicable diseases, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional conditions combined, to become the leading cause of death by 2030.
COVID-19, along with spiraling obesity, diabetes and hypertension rates, compounds the challenge, highlighting the urgency of a multi-sectoral response.
During the past two decades, most public health events have been climate-related, whether they were vector- or water-borne, transmitted from animals to humans, or the result of natural disasters.
He explained further that diarrhoeal diseases are the third leading cause of disease and death in children younger than five in Africa, a significant proportion of which is preventable through safe drinking water, and adequate sanitation and hygiene.
According to him, in 2018, African health and environment ministers endorsed the 10-year Libreville Declaration on Health and Environment in Africa, signed in 2008 which is a WHO-supported framework aimed at promoting government investment in addressing environmental problems that impact human health.
He reiterated that WHO in the African Region, will continue to support Member States to conduct vulnerability, situation assessments, as well as create Health National Adaptation Plans (H-NAPs) to further support countries to submit National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), comprising essential public health interventions, to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
He pointed out that Recent examples include the implementation of projects in Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. These focus on issues including climate-resilient water and sanitation, assessing the capacity of health facilities to cope with climate-change induced drought, and strengthening health systems resilience.
With Africa’s population projected to grow to 2.5 billion by 2050, it is expected that a burgeoning urbanization into areas exposed to natural hazards, might occur ,As such, WHO urges Member States to urgently initiate adaptation and mitigation actions.
He said governments, civil society, nongovernment organizations and communities need to work together, empowering one another to ensure the continued delivery of essential health services during future extreme events, while containing the growing incidence of environment- and lifestyle-related diseases.
“We cannot afford to lose sight of the fundamental truth that the climate crisis, the single biggest threat facing humanity today, is also very much a health crisis”.