A new report compiled by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) released at the weekend, states that African leaders should carry out environmental and health issues at the top of their national and continent-wide policies if growing challenges such as air pollution, vector-borne diseases and chemical exposure are to be addressed in Africa.
African Environment Outlook-3 (AEO-3) commissioned by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), places special focus on relations between environment and health, pointing to the fact that environmental risks contribute 28 per cent of Africa’s disease burden. Diarrhoea, respiratory infections and malaria report for 60 per cent of known environmental health impact in Africa.
The report also highlights the lack of capacity to deal with the growing effects of climate change; inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene. The AEO-3 Summary for Policy Makers is planned to provide information that can assist AMCEN member countries strengthen ability for policy making and support on national, regional and global levels.
In particular, the air pollutant with great impact on human health is of great concern in poor rural areas, where little or no access to cleaner stoves and fuels causes significant health impacts through indoor pollution. Air pollution in Africa can be 10 to 30 times higher than World Health Organization limits.
UNEP Executive Director says that “Africa’s population is growing at the fastest rate in the world and its economy is expanding at a commensurate rate, yet not enough focus has been placed on the role environmental concerns play in ensuring the wellbeing of this expanding, dynamic continent’s citizens,”
The report highlights emerging issues and assesses trends related to environmental change and the consequences for human health in the region, and proposes new policy directions for enabling transformative changes for a sustainable future. In addition, the report found that many good policies to address environmental change already exist but are hindered by weak implementation. However, the AEO-3 assessment points to a number of actions, which if adequately taken can make promising policies work effectively.