WHO and UN join hands to prevent 12.6m annual deaths from environmental risks

Environmental pollution
Dead seabirds are seen on the shore as thick fuel-oil from the stricken container ship Rena fouls beaches at Papamoa, near Tauranga October 12, 2011. Mike Hutchings/ Reuters

UN Environment and WHO are all set to collaborate to curb the consequences of environmental hazards on health, that causes an estimated 12.6 million deaths a year.

Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, in Nairobi on January 10, signed an agreement to combat risks of air pollution, climate change and antimicrobial resistance. They are also planning to improve procedures for waste management, water quality, food security and nutrition issues. This collaboration also aims at curbing air pollution for environment and health benefits.

According to WHO, in the last 15 years, this collaboration happens to be one of the most significant agreements signed on environment and health.

UN Environment's Solheim said that there lies an urgent requirement to work on "environmental sustainability and climate – which are the foundations for life on this planet".

Environmental pollution
A fisherman rests next to containers filled with oil cleaned up from the oil spill site at a port in Dalian, Liaoning province July 25, 2010. Sheng Li/ Reuters

Since health is directly related to the environment, according to WHO's Tedros, it is high time air, water and chemical hazards, killing 12.6 million people a year are curbed. He adds that in countries like Asia, Africa and Latin America, majority of the deaths occur due to environmental pollution.

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Areas of collaboration between WHO and UN Environment:

  • These two bodies are all set to monitor the air quality, assess the environment and health of individuals including assessment of the economy.
  • Keeping strong vigilance on the climate, monitoring vector-borne disease and other climate-related health risks including its prevention and cure.
  • Monitoring water quality.
  • Proper waste management primarily in the field of pesticides, fertilizers, use of antimicrobials.
Environmental pollution
Oil is seen on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico in an aerial view of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the coast of Mobile, Alabama Reuters

This new collaboration, therefore, is more of a research and development of the regulations of Sustainable Development Goals, to help prevent further deterioration of the environment and protect the world's flora and fauna. The two agencies will be holding an annual meeting to evaluate the performance of the collaboration.

The WHO-UN Environment collaboration is based on the Ministerial Declaration on Health, Environment and Climate Change which calls for the global creation of "Health, Environment and Climate Change". This coalition was formed at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Marrakesh, Morocco in 2016.

This article was first published on January 13, 2018