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Prioritise Health In Climate Change Discussions: WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged countries attending the COP27 to to prioritize health as climate change was making millions of people vulnerable to diseases.

WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said health must be at the core of the COP27 negotiations.

“Climate change is making millions of people sick or more vulnerable to disease all over the world and the increasing destructiveness of extreme weather events disproportionately affects poor and marginalized communities. It is crucial that leaders and decision-makers come together at COP27 to put health at the heart of the negotiations,” says Ghebreyesus.

He further noted that climate change was already affecting people’s health and will continue to do so at an accelerating rate unless urgent action is taken.

The direct damage costs to health (i.e., excluding costs in health-determining sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation), according to the WHO is estimated to be between US$ 2–4 billion per year by 2030.

“Our health depends on the health of the ecosystems surrounding us, and these ecosystems are now under threat from deforestation, agriculture, and other changes in land use and rapid urban development. The encroachment ever further into animal habitats is increasing opportunities for viruses harmful to humans to make the transition from their animal host. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress,” said Ghebreyesus.

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“Improvement in human health is something that all citizens can contribute to, whether through the promotion of more urban green spaces, which facilitate climate mitigation and adaptation while decreasing the exposure to air pollution, or campaigning for local traffic restrictions and the enhancement of local transport systems. Community engagement and participation in climate change are essential to building resilience and strengthening food and health systems. This is particularly important for vulnerable communities and small island developing states (SIDS), who bear the brunt of extreme weather events.”

He urged governments to promote health-focused climate policies.

“­Climate policy must now put health at the center and promote climate change mitigation policies that bring health benefits simultaneously. Health-focused climate policy would help bring about a planet that has cleaner air, more abundant and safer fresh water and food, more effective and fairer health and social protection systems and, as a result, healthier people,” said Ghebreyesus.

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