In partnership with the Global Climate and Health Alliance and air pollution campaign group Every Breath Matters, this week WHO released an open letter addressed to global leaders urging them to now make decisions that promote a move towards a healthier, fairer, and greener world.
“We cannot go back to the way we did things before,” said the letter, commenting on the increasing number of infectious diseases the world has seen in recent times, as well as the lack of universal health coverage and massive inequalities in access to medical treatment.
“Attempting to save money by neglecting environmental protection, emergency preparedness, health systems, and social safety nets, has proven to be a false economy – and the bill is now being paid many times over,” the letter read. “The world cannot afford repeated disasters on the scale of Covid-19, whether they are triggered by the next pandemic, or from mounting environmental damage and climate change. Going back to ‘normal’ is not good enough.”
Commenting on some of the innovations and positives that have surfaced as a result of the global lockdown, the letter cited ‘the bravery of health and other key workers in facing down risks to their own health to serve their communities’; countries coming together to provide emergency relief or to research treatments and vaccines; that pollution levels have dropped considerably in many destinations across the world; and how digital technology has accelerated new ways of working and connecting with each other remotely, and allowed people to spend more time with their families.
As a solution, the letter presented its ‘prescriptions for a healthy, green recovery’:
- Protect and preserve the source of human health: Nature.
- Invest in essential services, from water and sanitation to clean energy in healthcare facilities.
- Ensure a quick healthy energy transition.
- Promote healthy, sustainable food systems.
- Build healthy, liveable cities.
- Stop using taxpayers’ money to fund pollution.
Signatories to the letter, which collectively represent more than half of the global healthcare and medical workforce, include more than 200 medical groups such as the International Council of Nurses, the World Organisation of Family Doctors and the World Federation of Public Health Associations.
“The pandemic is a reminder of the intimate and delicate relationship between people and planet,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, addressing the 73rd World Health Assembly on 18 May 2020. “Any efforts to make our world safer are doomed to fail unless they address the critical interface between people and pathogens, and the existential threat of climate change, that is making our Earth less habitable."
You can read the letter in full here.