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World Health Assembly Considers Progress on Climate Change, MDGs

24 May 2011: The 64th World Health Assembly, which met from 16-24 May 2011 in Geneva, Switzerland, considered progress on the World Health Organization's (WHO) work on climate change and health and adopted, among other decisions, several resolutions and reports in support of health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

On climate change, member States welcomed the priority that WHO has placed on protecting health from climate change, and reinforced their own commitment, citing new initiatives including regional ministerial meetings and implementation projects. The WHO Workplan on Climate Change and Health, which was approved by the WHO Executive Board in 2009, addresses issues such as awareness raising of climate risks to health, partnerships with other UN agencies, enhancing scientific evidence and strengthening health systems to improve climate resilience of communities.

In her keynote address, Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minster of Bangladesh, stressed the links between climate change and its impacts on food and water supplies and disease outbreaks such as diarrhoea, cholera and other water-born diseases, noting that the countries of her region intend to raise human health issues in all climate change negotiations.

At a side-event co-organized by the Government of Mexico and WHO, and chaired by the Minister of Health of Mexico Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos, representatives from Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Germany, South Africa, Thailand and the UK highlighted the need to protect health from climate change, the potential for development and mitigation measures to improve health, and the opportunities for stronger health sector leadership in the environment and development agendas. They also identified common ground on the importance of a stronger role for health in the major environment and development processes, including the UN Conference on Sustainable development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), and the Durban Climate Change Conference. They further stressed the importance of strengthening management of environmental determinants, along with social determinants of health, to contribute to important new initiatives such as the international effort to combat the emerging epidemic of non-communicable diseases, which will be discussed at a special summit of the UN in September.

A number of resolutions and reports adopted support health-related MDGs, including reports on immunization strategy, infant and young child nutrition, child injury prevention, safe management of drinking water, malaria, and  the final report of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health. [WHO Press Release][WHO Workplan on Climate Change and Health][Sheikh Hasina's Speech] [Meeting Website]