Future generation’s health at risk, new report warns

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The health and well being of future generations is at risk due to the unprecedented degradation of natural resources and ecological systems, a report has revealed.

The report by the Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on Planetary Health revealed that an increasing population, unsustainable consumption and production and over exploitation of natural resources are straining the planet’s resources and having an impact on human health.

“The rampant cases of non communicable diseases world over is linked to poor diet and poor management of the environment,” Montiva Pongsiri, a Commissioner with the Rockefeller Foundation said in Nairobi on Friday while launching the report.

She called on governments to redouble efforts to ensure that cases of poor sanitation that leads to the deaths of many people are eliminated.

Pongsiri observed that the world requires stringent measures that could lead to massive forest conservation programs to help reduce deaths and also increase access to modern family planning.

“There is need for us to change our diets and also redirect land use back to food production to help avail food to the poor populations,” she noted.

The Executive Director of United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Achim Steiner commended the report adding that it helps ensure that economies are linked to human well being, areas that UNEP has pioneered its research on over the years.

He observed that current trends trigger irreversible global effects since they threaten the gains in health that have been achieved over the past years.

“Africa needs to act by ensuring that there is clean air, water and clean soils as a way of keeping clean environment,’ Steiner added.

He commended China’s effort in declaring war on pollution and called on other countries with pollution problems to emulate the Asian country.

Steiner revealed that planetary health, that is a new branch of research, will form one of the agenda during next year’s United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi.

“Africa needs to maintain and further reduce its contribution to climate change and mitigate the impacts of climate change on its environment and population,” The Executive Director of the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) Peter Ezeh said.

He noted that compensation for Africa because of the damaging effects it suffers due to global warming primarily caused by richer nations should be explored by the governments.

He said that climate change is a threat multiplier for conflicts in Africa since it is to blame for the increasing communal and inter-ethnic conflicts, especially over grazing land.

Ezeh noted that the world’s poorest communities will be among those at greatest risk, as they live in areas that are most strongly affected and have greater sensitivity to climate change, disease and poor health.

“There is a need to revisit how we think about human health and how we organize our efforts to improve health,” Ezeh added.

The president of Uganda National Academy of Sciences Professor Nelson Sewankambo told African academy of sciences to use their linkages to help develop communication that could lead to a mind shift on the way people use the environment.

“Scientists must begin to use simple language in their scientific dissemination to help create awareness and change,” Professor Sewankambo noted.

He said that given the different academic disciplines in local colleges, universities stand a better chance of pushing change towards habits such as charcoal burning that is being blamed for environmental degradation.

The report indicates that the human population is healthier than ever before as life expectancy has increased dramatically, poverty has reduced and child mortality has decreased significantly between 1950 and 2000.

But it added that the current threat posed is not only to future generations but is also a dangerous occurrence to the current generation.

The report recommends sustainable intensification, efficient use of water and fertilizer, sustainable aquaculture and use of biofortification as approaches for meeting increased food requirements.

It said that the increase in population that calls for additional grain production and water, calls for urgent and definitive actions at individual, household, community, national, regional and global levels.

The report recommends that the world population reduce food wastage, adopt healthy diets with low environmental impact and better governance to improve the health of the planet and that of the human population which depends on it.

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