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World Health Day: Environmental Crisis Worsening Non-communicable Diseases, Enhancing Ecosystem , Others- FG

Federal government has said that, the environmental catastrophe has exacerbated noncommunicable diseases, enhanced an ecology where many infectious diseases thrive, deteriorated air quality, food and water shortages, and deteriorated mental health illness.

Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora, Minister of State for Health, added that the current impact of various environmental crises on the planet’s health and every individual, such as climate change, avoidable pollution, food and waterborne diseases, emerging and reemerging infectious diseases, and extreme weather events, is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

He stated this on Thursday in Abuja during the 72nd World Health Day, 2022, which has the theme “Our Planet, Our Health.”

According to him, ” The effect of COVID-19 and the climate change crisis have unsettled the lives of many individuals across the globe while causing profound disruptions in the global economy, supply
chains and economic growth, with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs
hard hit.

“Let me begin by thanking the World Health Organization for creating an awareness where we
can re-imagine a world where clean air, water and food are available to all, where economies
concentrate on health and well-being, where cities are livable, and people have control over their health and the health of the planet.

“On this occasion of the 72nd World Health Day, the theme “Our planet, our health”
emphasizes an area of priority concern for the World Health Organization that looks at the
connection between the health of our planet and the health of every living creature – humans, plants, and animals, in the concept of “One Health”.

According to the American Medical Association , “scientific surveys have shown clear
evidence that our patients are facing adverse health effects associated with climate
change. From heat-related injuries and forest fire air pollution, to worsening seasonal
allergies and storm-related illness and injuries, it is important that we make every effort to put environmentally friendly practices in place to lessen the harmful impact that
climate change is having on patient health across the globe.”

“These health impacts from climate change primarily affect the vulnerable and the elderly
populations disproportionately, especially low-income communities, minorities, children, and
individuals with existing health conditions. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 80 percent of climate change affects many children. It also impacts access to
healthcare delivery services and disrupts primary health care infrastructure, involving health
care utilities, ambulatory care services, and communication systems, which are all critical to
maintaining emergency medical treatment services. Hospital supply chains may also see
disruptions, leading to shortages of essential medicines, vaccines, and medical devices.

“Where there is will, there is a way”. Our resolve throws light at the end of the tunnel. Such
resolve demonstrated by the health care professionals, policymakers, stakeholders,
development partners and interests in health has been evident during this pandemic crisis.

“Our planet, our health”, permit me to
quote from the late Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai, an environmentalist, who once said
, “I have come to realize that the physical destruction of the earth extends to humanity, too. If we live in an environment that’s wounded – where the water is polluted, the air is
filled with soot and fumes, the food is contaminated with heavy metals and plastic
residues, or the soil is practically dust – it hurts us, chipping away at our health and
creating injuries at a physical, psychological, and spiritual level. Therefore, in degrading the environment, we degrade ourselves and all humankind.”

This is a profound statement
that captures the essence of our gathering here today!
This call for urgent action to safeguard our planet and our health in line with the World
Health Day theme, the government will bring together experts, policymakers, stakeholders, and
development partners to set up a committee to discuss on the central scientific issues to
improving and benefiting from healthy planet and respect for the integrity of living creature.

The Federal Ministry of Health will reflect on the need for strategic ideas and priorities, which should be worked on in more detail through the following: Prioritizing long term decision-making that stabilizes the welfare and security of Nigerians and
their environment; Prioritizing efforts that will keep the private sector and other socio-economic organizations’
environmental and their health goals in safe hands; Implementing policies that reduce the use of fossil fuels, fossil fuels subsidies, its exploration and shift projects to increase clean energy production and use; he country towards a green economy by 2030.

These would serve as the basis for a framework for an Action Plan towards reducing human
and planetary health threats. Such an economy in Nigeria will improve the lives of many
Nigerians and their environment while reducing exposure to environmental risks for future
generations.

The Federal Ministry of Health will provide a framework for an action plan that can be
modified as desirable for local needs with a shift from fragmented approaches to policy and
practice geared towards systematic actions that will promote human health as well as health of
the planet.

He is confidence that, our funding and implementing partners will support the targeted goals
and objectives to make them achievable through appropriate funding and robust
implementation.

Similarly, WHO Nigeria Head of Mission and Country Representative, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo said WHO estimates that more than 13 million annual deaths globally are due to avoidable environmental causes, including the climate crisis.

He said that, climate change is manifesting in increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, changing rainfall patterns, and more frequent and severe extreme weather conditions.

Mulombo, who was represented by his Deputy Dr. Alex Chimbaru said This year’s theme, Our Planet, Our Health, serves as a timely reminder of the inextricable link between the planet and our health, as the burden of noncommunicable and infectious diseases rises alongside growing incidence of climate-related challenges.

His words, “With direct consequences for the key determinants of health, climate change is negatively impacting air and water quality, food security, and human habitat and shelter. The knock-on effect for the burden of heart and lung disease, stroke and cancer, among others, is evident from statistics that point to NCDs representing a growing proportion of Africa’s disease burden including Nigeria.

“In Nigeria and many part of African continent, NCDs are set to overtake communicable diseases, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional conditions combined, to become the leading cause of death by 2030. COVID-19, along with spiraling obesity, diabetes and hypertension rates, compounds the challenge, highlighting the urgency of a multi-sectoral response.

“In Nigeria climate change is already increasing the vulnerability of health systems. Warming of 2-3°C is estimated to increase the higher risks of malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, Lassa fever, cholera and other diseases especially in coastal regions such as Lagos and Port Harcourt and in the Lake Chad Basin.

“Consequently, Nigeria’s commitment to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emission by 20% unconditionally and 47% with international support, and the development the Sectoral Action Plan (SAP) for the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in the key priority sectors are commendable”.

Mulombo further noted that, “During the past two decades, most public health events have been climate-related, whether they were vector- or water-borne, transmitted from animals to humans, or the result of natural disasters. For example, diarrhoeal diseases are the third leading cause of disease and death in children younger than five in Africa, a significant proportion of which is preventable through safe drinking water, and adequate sanitation and hygiene.

“However, 3 in 10 people in Nigeria don’t have clean water close to home, putting them under constant threat from waterborne diseases like cholera. The more our climate changes, the more challenging this becomes. Though in 2018, President Mohammmed Buhari declared a state of emergency in Nigeria’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector, yet 30 per cent of Nigerians do not have access to a basic water services, more than half of rural water sources are contaminated. of the resultant effect of inadequate access to WASH services is increasing child deaths linked to outbreaks of cholera and WASH related diseases.

Meanwhile, a heating world is seeing mosquitos spread diseases further and faster than ever before, with serious consequences for Nigeria which reported 31.9%% of all malaria cases recorded in Africa region and 27% of global cases in 2021.

“In 2018, African health and environment ministers endorsed the 10-year Libreville Declaration on Health and Environment in Africa, signed in 2008. This is a WHO-supported framework aimed at promoting government investment in addressing environmental problems that impact human health – such as air pollution, contamination of water sources, and ecosystem damage.

“With Nigeria population estimated at 208 million and projected to grow to surpass that of the United States by 2050, at which point it would become the third largest country in the world., we can expect burgeoning urbanization into areas exposed to natural hazards, and a concomitant increase in associated injuries, disease and deaths. As such, I urge our WHO State offices across the 36 states in Nigeria to urgently initiate climate change and health adaptation and mitigation actions” .

Mulombo added that, being part of the solution, in 2021, WHO has facilitated the signing of 1st ever Nigeria Health Sector Ministerial Commitment and Public Declaration to building a climate-resilient and sustainable health system with deadlines prior to COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in October 2021. WHO has also supported Nigeria to develop her health climate profiles in 2015. And prior to the onset of the first index of COVID-19 in Nigeria in 2020, WHO has collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Health to train over 74 experts and climate change health desk officers across the 36+1 states in Nigeria to coordinate health system climate initiatives at sub-national level. We have supported Nigeria to activate a national Technical Working Group on Climate Change and Health.

In a multisectoral one-health approach and in furtherance to achieving the NDC, we shall support the development of Nigeria National Health Adaptation Plan (HNAP) and Conduct assessment of the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of the health systems to climate change comprising essential public health interventions, in line with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and COP26 Health Programme.

Governments, civil society, nongovernment organizations and communities need to work together, empowering one another to ensure the continued delivery of essential health services during future extreme events, while containing the growing incidence of environment- and lifestyle-related diseases.

We cannot afford to lose sight of the fundamental truth that the climate crisis, the single biggest threat facing humanity today, is also very much a health crisis.

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