Climate change issues are health issues, says WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) and key Nigerian stakeholders have called for a multisectoral approach to climate change and other environmental threats to public health.

This call came during the ministerial press conference organized by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) in collaboration with the WHO.

The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunmibe Mamora, reiterated the government’s commitment to work with other agencies to ensure a safe and healthy environment for Nigerians.

Dr Mamora said the theme of the commemoration, “Our planet, our health”, is appropriate because recent events (epidemics, floods, drought) around the world underline the link between human activities and the planet.

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He pledged FMOH leadership in:

  • implement long-term multi-sectoral plans
  • increase private sector engagement
  • reduce the use of fossil fuels for clean energy production
  • reduction of carbon emissions
  • implement WHO air quality guidelines
  • a transition to a green economy.

“The current impact of various environmental crises such as climate change, preventable pollution, food and waterborne diseases, emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases and extreme weather events on the planet, health and every individual are of harder and harder to ignore.”

Introducing the WHO Regional Director’s speech, WHO Deputy Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Alexander Chimbaru said that climate change is manifested in rising temperatures, rising sea levels, changing precipitation patterns and more frequent and severe weather extremes.

He added that while many countries, (including Nigeria), have put in place Early Warning, Alert and Response Systems (EWARS) to identify potential risks of vector or waterborne diseases susceptible to climate, there is still much to do.

“With Africa’s population projected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, we can expect thriving urbanization in areas prone to natural hazards and a concomitant increase in associated injuries, illnesses and deaths,” a- he declared.

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Dr Chimbaru urged the government to urgently initiate climate change and health adaptation and mitigation measures. “We will support the development of the Nigeria National Health Adaptation Plan (HNAP) and carry out an assessment of the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of health systems to climate change comprising essential public health interventions, in line with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the COP26 Health Programme,” he said.

“We cannot afford to lose sight of the fundamental truth that the climate crisis, the greatest threat facing humanity today, is also a health crisis,” he said.

Dr. Uzodinma Adirieje, speaking on behalf of civil society organizations, highlighted the intersection between planet and health in human life. He urged the government and partners to prioritize interventions that reduce carbon emissions through renewable energy technologies to mitigate the harmful environmental effects on health caused by human activities such as tree felling and cooking.

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