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Updated On: Friday, 19 January 2018
Development Issues

WHO, UNEP Program on Environmental Health Risks

Content by: South-South News

11 January 2018, New York, USA | South-South News — The UN Environment Program (UNEP) and World Health Organization (WHO) agreed January 10 on a new, wide-ranging collaboration to accelerate action to curb environmental health risks that cause an estimated 12.6 million deaths a year.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and the Executive Director of UNEP, Erik Solheim, signed the agreement in Nairobi to step up joint actions to combat air pollution, climate change and antimicrobial resistance, as well as improve coordination on waste and chemicals management, water quality, and food and nutrition issues. The collaboration also includes joint management of the BreatheLife advocacy campaign to reduce air pollution for multiple climate, environment and health benefits.

Tedros said that, despite the agreement being comprehensive, the two chiefs agreed to focus on air pollution. “Air pollution is, as what we have agreed with my brother Erik, a present and current danger; and it’s affecting the health of the world, especially in cities,” he said, “Our children are not really breathing well. They’re facing difficult health problems and that’s not something that we should pend for tomorrow; and that’s why we agreed to start with air pollution to really focus on that.”

Tedros said the agreement includes a clear plan with clear deliverables and follow-up mechanisms adding that there will be accountability in the plan as well. “The relationship will be at all levels - global, regional, and country level – but mostly we will make sure that whatever we do brings change at country-level especially in our cities which are really being affected by pollution. Both of us agree that we don’t want to see our children really suffering and unable to breathe,” Tedros said.

UNEP chief Erik Solheim said the agreement is “really a no-brainer”. He said pollution is the “biggest killer of humans in this age” and needs to be talked from both the environmental and health points of view. He said the aim of the agreement is to jointly set out policies “which the global cities, every city in the world, need to set out to move into electrical, transportation, to move into bicycling, to make green lungs in the city, and to clamp down on the pollution to that everyone, every child, every adult, every old person can really breathe nicely in the cities in the world.”

This represents the most significant formal agreement on joint action across the spectrum of environment and health issues in over 15 years.

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