Impact of environment on health: Africa adopts strategy for better synergy between sectors

New strategy also integrates recommendations for healthy recovery from COVID-19 pandemic

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Friday 26 August 2022

African health ministers adopted the updated Regional strategy for the management of environmental determinants of human health in the African Region 2022–2032 August 25, 2022, according to an official statement. 

Nearly a quarter of all deaths in Africa are reportedly due to environmental causes, including the impacts of climate change, the ministers acknowledged in the document. They adopted it at the 72nd session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa in Lomé, Togo.

The new strategy for 2022-2032 provides guidance to member states on addressing health and environment linkages for achieving sustainable development goals. 

It has been designed to promote synergies and coordination between the health and environment sectors recognised by the Libreville Declaration, 2008.

The strategy adopted includes key milestones till 2027 and targets. It has also integrated recommendations from the WHO manifesto for a healthy recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

At least 30 member states should have developed their national framework for water safety plans by 2027, according to the plan. In view of climate impacts, at least 30 member states would have their health national adaptation plans. In addition, health dimension would be included in Nationally Determined Contributions of all the member states by 2027, the document mentioned.

The strategy adopted by the health ministers has recommended establishment of ‘One Health’ platforms to promote understanding and management of interlinkages between human, animal and environmental health. This is a significant intervention in view of rising zoonotic diseases in Africa.

Integrated assessments should be periodically undertaken to address ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss, the authors of the strategy recommended.

The strategy recognised a critical lack of air quality data in the region. It suggested promotion of air pollution monitoring and consolidating its impact on human health. 

Africa has been experiencing high burdens of both communicable and noncommunicable diseases including vector-borne, diarrhoeal and cardiovascular ailments. African countries also have a high prevalence of lower respiratory infections that are mostly attributed to environmental determinants.

Ambient and household air pollution as well as inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities are the environmental drivers of these diseases.

The continent has, in the past, made efforts to address health and environmental issues through the Libreville Declaration adopted in 2008 and the regional strategy for the management of environmental determinants of human health (2017–2021).

But implementation of the earlier strategy was slow due to limited investments and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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