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WHO chief links climate change to a global increase in health problems

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WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus linked climate change for an increase in various health problems across the globe. 

While addressing world leaders and attendees at the UNEA 6 conference on Thursday, Tedros said the health of humans, animals, and the environment are “woven together in a bond that is inextricable, yet fragile.”

“We are now re-learning what humans have always known, but which, since the industrial revolution, we have forgotten or ignored, that when we harm our environment, we harm ourselves,” said Tedros.

He reminded attendees that for centuries, humans plundered the planet in the name of progress and are currently dealing with the triple planetary crises of climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks to attendees of the UN Environment Assembly at the United Nations Gigiri complex in Nairobi, Kenya, February 29, 2024. /UNEP

Humanity has caused “triple planetary crises”

According to the United Nations, each crisis has its causes and effects and needs its solution.

“If our planet were a patient, it would be admitted to intensive care. Its vital signs are alarming. It is running a fever, with each of the last nine months the hottest on record, as we hurtle towards the 1.5-degree threshold,” said the WHO chief. 

 He then painted a picture of the planet’s lung capacity being compromised, with the destruction of forests that absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.

“And many of the earth’s water sources, its lifeblood,  are contaminated. Most concerning of all, its condition is deteriorating rapidly. Is it any wonder, then, that human health is suffering, when the health of the planet on which we depend is in peril?” he asked attendees. 

Tedros revealed more frequent and severe weather events are causing more deaths, injuries, and damage to health facilities and other essential infrastructure. More heatwaves are leading to an increase in cardiovascular disease. 

Air pollution drives lung cancer, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Chemicals such as lead cause intellectual disability, and cardiovascular and kidney disease. Drought and water scarcity affect food production, making healthy diets less affordable.”

To solve this, the WHO chief called for the implementation of the recently launched Implementation Guide of the One Health Joint Plan of Action.

“One Health is one of the important issues that WHO Member States are now discussing as part of their negotiation of the new pandemic agreement, ahead of the World Health Assembly in just 12 weeks. I urge you all to voice your support for the agreement. Your work this week will have a direct bearing on the realization of a One Health approach”, he concluded.

According to the WHO, the Implementation Guide of the One Health Joint Plan of Action was designed to integrate systems and capacity to collectively better prevent, predict, detect, and respond to health threats. The initiative seeks to improve the health of humans, animals, plants, and the environment while contributing to sustainable development.

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