African health and environment ministers have agreed to form an alliance to reduce environmental threats to human health and well-being.
According to the Libreville Declaration, named after the Gabonese capital, where a four-day conference was held, the ministers committed governments in the region to take measures to stimulate the necessary policy, investment and institutional changes so that synergies between health, environment and other fields are maximized.
The text of the declaration received here on Monday was decided after participants concurred that the root causes of environmental degradation can be found in social and economic problems such as poverty, inequality of wealth, the debt burden and unsustainable production and consumption behaviors.
"The signing of this landmark declaration," said Luis G. Sambo, Regional Director of World Health Organization's (WHO) Africa Regional Office, "is the first step towards saving the lives of millions of people from the harmful effects of changes in the environment."
"We will work together to promote strategic alliances between health and environment. I am delighted that we have managed to secure political commitment to catalyze institutional changes needed to improve the health and well being of communities in the region."
Delegates noted that these problems can lead to the proliferation of diseases and conditions including malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, typhoid, bronchitis and asthma.
Sambo welcomed the declaration, saying it should serve as a catalyst for necessary political and institutional action.
"The signing of this landmark declaration is the first step towards saving the lives of millions of people from the harmful effects of changes in the environment," Sambo said.
The last week's conference, jointly organized by WHO and the Nairobi-based UN Environment Program (UNEP), was attended by health ministers, environment ministers, policymakers, bilateral and multilateral institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and high-level experts.
"Nowhere else is the threat to human health from environmental degradation more urgent than Africa," said Maria Neira, WHO's Director for Department of Public Health and Environment.
"The Libreville declaration is an accomplishment for Africa and beyond. This combined movement initiated today in Africa is a contribution to protection of both the global environment and human health everywhere".
Delegates highlighted the need to address health, environment and economic development issues in an interrelated manner to generate new synergies in poverty reduction and social equity.
Ministers expressed their willingness to actively seek partnerships with civil society, including the private sector, andto seek their expertise in effecting change to improve environmental conditions in Africa.
"This conference will go down in the annals of Africa as the first to generate a synergy of political action and complementarity between health and environment for sustainable development," said Mme Angélique Ngoma, Minister of Health and Public Hygiene of Gabon.