New Delhi: With climate change emerging as the single biggest threat facing humanity and nearly 13 million lives lost every year due to avoidable environmental causes, the World Health Organization on Wednesday called for prioritising equitable health and accelerating steps to protect ecological systems and health to build well-being societies. Climate change is putting the health, well-being, and sustainable development of billions of people across the region and the world at risk. It imperils decades of progress in reducing disease-related morbidity and mortality. We must act now to keep humans and our planet healthy, said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region.
Climate change is expected to cause an additional 250 000 deaths annually between 2030 and 2050. WHO is urging governments and people to take measures to protect ‘Our Planet, Our Health’ the theme of World Health Day 2022.
The WHO South-East Asia Region, home to more than 2 billion people is highly vulnerable to climate change and has the highest estimated number of deaths due to climate change.
Intense rainfall, frequent floods, forest fires and droughts triggered by climate change are already impacting health and livelihood and causing huge sufferings, mental health issues, deaths and displacement, globally and in the Region. Rising temperatures are also leading to an outbreak of infectious disease, heat strokes, trauma and even death from extreme heat. Crop failure linked to climate change is driving malnutrition and undernutrition.
The same pollutants poisoning the air are also impacting health.
Over 90 per cent of people globally breathe polluted air resulting in seven million deaths every year including 2.4 million deaths in the SE Asia Region.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the inequitable and unsustainable nature of existing political, social, and commercial decisions.
We have a once-in-a-century opportunity to drive transformative, lasting change. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that if decision-making is transparent, evidence-based, and inclusive, people will support bold and far-reaching policies that protect their health, families and livelihoods, said the Regional Director.
WHO is calling on countries to prioritise equitable health now, and for the future generations-including long-term investments, well-being budgets, social protection, and legal and fiscal strategies to allow for societies to flourish and fulfil everyone’s right to health and development while protecting our planet.
The priority measures include the protection and preservation of the source of human health: nature. Improve air quality, support afforestation and sustainable farming, and strengthen food systems. Second, invest in essential services from water and sanitation to clean energy in health care facilities. In line with the 2017 Male declaration, build climate-resilient health facilities which promote environmentally sustainable practices. Third, ensure quick and healthy energy transformation. While countries in the Region have made commendable progress toward renewable energy, increased action is needed, accompanied by rigorous enforcement of air quality standards. Fourth, promote healthy and sustainable food systems. Disease caused by lack of access to food or consumption of unhealthy ultra-processed food and beverages is a major contributor to non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Fifth, build healthy and livable sustainable cities with green and healthy spaces to encourage physical activity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and road traffic injuries.
We are at a pivotal moment. The decisions and actions we take now can either escalate damage to the ecological systems that sustain human health and livelihoods, or they can promote a healthier, fairer, and greener world. Together we must confront the climate crisis, protect health for all and ensure a fairer, healthier, and greener future for generations to come, said the Regional Director.
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NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.