WHO :: Reducing environmental risks could save 13 mn lives, WHO

Reducing environmental risks including pollution, unsafe water, ultraviolet radiation and climate change can save 13 million lives annually, the United Nations health agency said.

Releasing its first ever countrywise analysis of the impact of environmental factors on health, the World Health Organization (WHO) said more than one third of the disease could be prevented through environmental improvements.

The worst-affected countries include Angola, Burkina Faso, Mali and Afghanistan.

These country estimates are a first step towards assisting national decision-makers in the sectors of health and environment to set priorities for preventive action, said Susanne Weber-Mosdorf, WHO Assistant Director-General for Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments.

Quantifying the burden of disease from unhealthy environments is crucial because “this information is key to help countries select the appropriate interventions,” she added.

WHO found that in 23 countries, more than 10 per cent of deaths are due to just two environmental risk factors which include unsafe water, poor sanitation and hygiene and indoor air pollution due to solid fuel use for cooking.

Around the world, children under five are the main victims and make up 74 per cent of deaths due to diarrhoeal disease and respiratory infections.

The data showed that household interventions could dramatically reduce the death rate.

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