GOING GREEN | Africa's Enviromental Health
By Alex Rose-Innes
Other priorities are vector control and management of chemicals, particularly pesticides and wastes; food safety and security, including the management of genetically modified organisms in food production; children’s health and women’s environmental health; health in the workplace and the management of natural and human-induced disasters.
With the Luanda Commitment, countries pledged to complete the Situation Analyses and Needs Assessment (SANA) in all African countries and the preparation of National Plans of Joint Action by the end of 2012. So far, SANA has been completed in 17 African countries.
Countries agreed to mobilise available resources in government budgets and to advocate for and monitor an allocation of 15% of government finances to the health sector, as stated in the 2001 Abuja Declaration by African Heads of State and a substantial increase of allocations of government budgets to the environment sector.
The Health and Environment Strategic Alliance (HESA) was also established, a novel mechanism to stimulate policies and investments in favour of enhanced joint actions for health and environment in Africa. HESA is the first-ever collaboration framework of its type between African countries and two United Nations agencies in Africa.
Building on linkages between the health and environment sectors, HESA will develop and coordinate actions to effectively protect and promote public health and ecosystem integrity with a view to helping countries attain the Millennium Development Goals.
African Ministers of Health and Environment have thus far made their strongest pronouncement ever on climate change and health in the region, with the adoption of a Joint Statement on Climate Change and Health.
The statement articulates Africa’s common position on climate change and health and calls for support for actions aimed at reducing vulnerability and building resilience in the health sector in African countries. It also captures commitments by African ministers to address climate change on the continent, particularly as its effects are likely to be more severe than originally anticipated and may exacerbate effects of traditional and emerging environmental risk factors on human health, thereby hampering Africa’s efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals.
Assessing the outcomes of the conference, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Luis Sambo, at the time said that the three tools adopted at that ground-breaking conference were clear and consistent and the decisions taken would serve all well in the implementation thereof.
This country with its rich biodiversity is now threatened because water resources are poorly managed – 35% of piped water is lost and water stocks are being polluted with industrial and urban waste. Cultivable land is also compromised because of water shortages and soil erosion.
Because of its strategic location and its historical and geographic context, Morocco has a great diversity of fauna, flora, climates, sociocultural groups and landscapes. There is a wide range of ecosystems including Mediterranean forests, coniferous forests, prairies and deserts, and this wealth of fauna and flora makes Morocco the second-richest country in the Mediterranean in terms of biodiversity. However, in spite of these natural advantages, the country has not been able to realise the kind of development that benefits its entire population.
The government’s development model is built around economic growth and urbanisation, but this has aggravated the environmental crisis the country is mired in. Moroccans today are facing a whole array of problems stemming from the exhaustion of resources and the deterioration of natural habitats, and these have an impact on the cost of living. There is a serious imbalance between the increasing demand for fresh water and dwindling stocks of this resource. Forests and soils have been overexploited, which means land that could have been used for agriculture is being lost. The economic cost of this environmental deterioration is estimated at millions of US dollars.
The loss of cultivable land due to water shortages and soil erosion has a direct impact on rural poverty. Three of the 4-million people who are below the poverty line live in rural areas. Some 75% of the rural population depends on agriculture for a living, but the majority only has access to small, non-irrigated plots of land which have limited crop potential.
Another of the country’s pressing environmental problems is flooding. In recent years, several regions have been hit by abnormally heavy rains and snow and resulting floods caused more than 30 deaths and brought suffering and poverty to thousands.
Since the year 2000, many of the new resorts in Morocco were built using sustainable development methods and with an emphasis on protecting the environment. As tourism has become a leading industry in Morocco, it has finally begun to pay attention to the critical issues of how to sustain tourism yet keep the impact on Morocco’s environment to a minimum.
One way Morocco is pro-active in protecting its environment is through its planting programmes. Every year two million palm trees are planted and distributed throughout the south with the aim to alleviate the effects of the developing golf courses and hotels. Visiting places like the Oasis of Fint in southern Morocco, which boasts beautiful palms, or the lush palmary of Marrakech, gives any Moroccan traveller a true sense of its aim to maintain greenery. Although golf courses and hotels are important to the growth of tourism, building them uses a large amount of water. Without taking the proper precautions, they could potentially be destructive to the country’s environment.
Recently, Morocco has also become an active participant in environmental conferences. The Worldlife Fund has been working with local organisations and communities to sustain the use of forest products such as oil, honey and thuya (a unique conifer tree related to cedar which grows in only one specific region of Morocco) products.
Since 2006, the Mohammed VI Foundation for the Protection of the Environment has been working to improve marine life and decrease environmental costs of tourism in beach areas by rewarding local communities, organisations and businesses making efforts to improve beach quality.
But, despite new efforts to sustain the environment and new planting programmes, pollution, desertification, overgrazing and deforestation are still problems threatening the health of Morocco’s environment.
Côte d’Ivoire, once a beacon of economic prosperity and political stability, has been wracked by conflict and volatility in recent years following a 2002 civil war and a 2010 post-election crisis with months of violence and unrest.
Today this West African nation – with the highest level of biodiversity in the region, vast mineral deposits and significant revenue from cocoa exports – is seeking to establish a road map for peace-building and economic recovery. Within this framework it aims to address environmental and natural resource governance on a national scale and as a precondition for sustainable development and conflict prevention.
However, much the same as in the rest of West Africa, severe deforestation has taken place with deforestation rates of 183 000ha since 1990 at a rate of 0.1% per year. In 2005, as a result of agriculture, uncontrolled fires and logging for tropical wood, only 2% of the country’s land area was covered with primary forest. Since 1990, the country has collapsed because of mineral resource depletion and declining agricultural activity.
Consequently, the government of Côte d’Ivoire, through its Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, has requested that UNEP undertake a Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment (PCEA) in order to carry out systematic and quantitative analyses of the environment and natural resources based on remote sensing, environmental sampling and institutional assessment.
The livelihoods of most Ugandans intimately depend on the environment, both as a source of subsistence and as a basis for production. Environmental degradation in the country – which includes wetland encroachment and contamination of water resources – is critical. Based on estimates, degradation costs represent an environmental debt of about USD1 to 4-billion today.
Although the country’s water resources are rich, severe water scarcity is predicted for the near future, particularly in more populated areas and in the more fragile arid and semi-arid pastoral areas. The Ugandan government has formulated a number of policies to regulate land use and impacts on the environment. However, the alarming rate at which natural resources are being depleted shows that these laws and policies are not being enforced effectively. Using both qualitative and quantitative research methods, a recent study focused on water resources, assessing their status in four mountainous districts of Uganda and evaluated the effectiveness of government policies with regard to restoration and conservation of water catchments. It revealed a glaring gap between the existence of laws and policies on the one hand and the reality of implementation on the ground on the other. There is rapid depletion of water resources and water scarcity has already led to conflicts. The study calls for effective implementation of existing policies and laws without fear or favour and for increased budgetary allocations, to accommodate funding for the execution of policies and laws. It also calls for meticulous review of the existing environmental policy regime with a view to tailoring, customising, and localising it for practical purposes.
At national level, there is strong political commitment to advance sustainable development through the adoption of the new long-term vision, the main objective being to make Mauritius a model of sustainable development.
The UNDP Country Programme is anchored in the 10-year national economic reform programme, focusing on capacity development in strategic initiatives and aiming to create more growth opportunities to restore the economy on a higher plane of development. The current results-oriented country programme in environment is focused on strengthening institutional capacities and features identified as growing threats to current and future environmental parameters such as climate change-mitigating and adaptive strategies, removal of persistent organic pollutants, expansion of marine and terrestrial protected areas, and removal of barriers to energy conservation.
The UNDP evaluation team has rated the country’s environment programme as satisfactory overall with potential for a higher level of achievement in future.
Afica's Enviromental Health: IS the Continent Meeting its Sustainable Targets?
This year will see a conference on African health and environment held in Kenya during June to address sustainable, safe and secure environmental health for the continent. However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) already hosted a similar meeting in Angola four years ago, where the continent’s health and environmental priorities were adopted in the Luanda Commitment.
The priorities listed in the Luanda Commitment include provision of safe drinking water; provision of sanitation and hygiene services; management of environmental and health risks related to climate change; sustainable management of forests and wetlands and management of water, soil and air pollution as well as biodiversity conservation.