African Health and Environment Ministers Meet to Chart Continental Response to Environmental Risk to Health

Luanda, 26 November 2010 -- Health and Environment Ministers from Africa on Thursday began a two-day meeting in Luanda, Angola, to identify new ways to consolidate a joint continental response to the heavy burden of disease attributable to environmental factors.

Opening the conference organized by WHO and UNEP and hosted by the Government of Angola, the Angolan Vice-President, Mr. Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos said: “The importance of discussing together environmental issues and their linkage with health is clearly increasing, as we can see in the reports from countries that have been submitted to the Conference.

«This Second Inter-Ministerial Conference on Health and Environment in Africa offers us an opportunity to consolidate experiences and to raise consensus for better articulation of our efforts to find a solution to the big environmental and health challenges in the African region».

The Luanda conference will carry the 2008 Libreville Declaration further forward by agreeing on a Health and Environmental Strategic Alliance to drive the implementation of the Declaration. The alliance will also develop and coordinate actions by the health and environment sectors to effectively use health and environment linkages for protecting and promoting public health.

One of the major expected outcomes of the conference is the Luanda Commitment on Health and Environment in Africa, which will commit countries to actions such as strengthening the health and environment strategic alliance, accelerating the implementation of the Libreville Declaration and addressing the continent’s top priorities in the area of health and environment.

Addressing participants, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, said: “The Health and Environment Strategic Alliance is of particular importance at this period as 2010 marks the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Millennium Declaration. I am convinced that the Luanda conference will be a landmark, as it will define a health and environment framework that will make it possible to scale up interventions that ensure a balance between human kind and their ecosystem in Africa now and In the future.”

The second landmark expected outcome of the conference is a Joint Statement on Climate Change and Health, which would articulate Africa’s common position to be tabled before the 16th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held in Cancun, Mexico, in December 2010.

"The creation of the health and environment alliance is a strong, unified commitment to further reduce Africa’s 2.4 million annual deaths from the effects of climate change, unsafe water and sanitation, as well as inadequate waste disposal, pollution and chemicals," said Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director for Health and Environment. "We know that tackling these public health challenges is possible when ministers from both sectors work together around joint actions and common priorities."

Since the First Inter-Ministerial Conference in 2008, good progress has been made by countries with the support of WHO and UNEP and other partners. Situation Analyses and Needs Assessments for the identification and validation of national priorities, leading to the development of national plans of joint action have been undertaken in several countries.

UNEP’s Regional Director, Mr. Mounkaila Goumandakoye said: “The success of this meeting will be measured by how much and how well the adopted framework for the implementation of the defined priorities is put into action in the countries. The Libreville Declaration process is unquestionably an outstanding example of effective partnership around health and environment in Africa. Our continent is facing considerable challenges but the opportunities and potential are huge in the region, particularly in the environmental sector. We need to harness and maximize these opportunities for economic growth, poverty alleviation, for health and for effective sustainable development”.

The ministerial conference was preceded by a technical session that brought together scientific experts and ministerial advisers to discuss the scientific evidence and programmatic issues such as environmental risk factors to human and ecosystem integrity.

The conference follows the 2008 first Inter-ministerial Conference on Health and Environment held in Libreville, Gabon. For The Libreville Declaration, 52 African countries committed themselves to undertaking 11 priority action points to address challenges relating to health and the environment.


Further information:

Health and Environment Strategic Alliance
http://www.unep.org/roa/hesa/Events/2ndInterMinisterialConference/tabid/6011/Default.aspx

WHO Public Health and Environment
http://www.who.int/phe

For more information, please contact:

Jose Caetano, Health Information and Promotion Officer, WHO Country Office, Angola ; Tel : +244 926 546 698 or + 244 912 220 543 ; email: caetanoj [at] ao.afro.who.int

Angele Luh, UNEP Regional Information Officer, on Mobile: + 254 731 666 140; Angola: +244 937 148 568; E-mail: angele.luh [at] unep.org

Sam Ajibola, WHO-Regional Office for Africa, Tel (in Luanda) +244 935 555 326; Email: ajibolas [at] afro.who.int;

Flavienne Issembe, WHO-Regional Office for Africa, Tel (in Luanda) +244 935 555 326; Email: issembef [at] afro.who.int

Joana Teixeira, WHO-Regional ffice for Africa, Tel (in Luanda) +244 935 555 326; Email: ajibolas [at] afro.who.int .