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GAHP Addresses UNEA3 Plenary, Engages With Over 20 Countries On Next Steps

Karti Sandilya reading his statement at UNEA3.


A team from the GAHP attended UNEA3 in Nairobi, Kenya in December 2017, to brief the gathering of world environmental leaders about the findings of The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, and to promote concrete solutions outlined in the landmark report.

We met with Ministers of the environment, and Director Generals of country environmental protection agencies for nearly 20 countries, including Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Cambodia, Ghana, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Togo, and Zambia.

These countries all expressed strong interest in initiating the Health and Pollution Action Planning program offered by GAHP. Most have already joined or are joining GAHP in order to work with a collaborative body to begin addressing their most urgent pollution problems.

Our numerous meetings and conversations at UNEA3 confirm that there is an enormous demand for assistance in addressing pollution from low- and middle-income countries. All that is needed is funding from the donor community to get these projects started.

We left UNEA3 with much hope for the future.

Here is the statement from Karti Sandilya, Senior Adviser, Global Alliance on Health and Pollution. We believe it deserves to be read in full.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, I speak to you on behalf of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution or GAHP.

As you may know, we are a collaborative community that includes a number of low- and middle-income countries, bilateral and multilateral donors, and relevant UN agencies, such as UN Environment.

GAHP’s objective is to address pollution and health at scale. Our mission is to work for a world where the health of present and future generations, especially children and pregnant women, is safe from toxic pollution.

In October this year, we published The Lancet Commission report on pollution and health and we are delighted that UN Environment, an active GAHP member, picked “A Pollution-Free Planet” as the theme for UNEA3.

We believe that the resources currently allocated to prevent and remediate pollution do not do justice to what is the single biggest killer in the world today. Instead, we need to urgently mainstream and prioritize action on pollution within national and international development plans. It is critical that governments elevate the profile of pollution control in development budgets and that their development partners respond appropriately.

Only by working together can we hope to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3.9, that is, by 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from exposure to all forms of pollution: air, water and soil.

In doing so, programs and projects to address pollution should focus, at least in part, on reducing the burden of disease from pollution, by measuring public exposures and prioritizing pollution challenges and solutions, based on health impacts. Planning to address pollution effectively must also involve all the relevant government agencies, and not be considered just the responsibility of Ministries of Environment.

The Lancet Commission highlighted the extreme toll that pollution takes on health and economic productivity, but data gaps remain.

Decision-makers need more complete data on the impacts of pollution at the local level, particularly of exposures to chemicals of known toxicity, such as lead, and emerging pollutants, such as endocrine disruptors. These are largely under-counted, at present, in studies on the global burden of disease. Until this gap is filled, we will continue to underestimate the true costs of pollution.

We hope UNEA3 will prove the inflection point when global action on pollution begins in earnest. We thank UN Environment for its continued support and the Government of Kenya for its warm hospitality.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

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