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UN Environment and WHO agree to major collaboration on environmental health risks


10 Jan 2018
UN Environment and World Health Organization agree to major collaboration on environmental health risks

10 January 2018 / Nairobi–UN Environment and the World Health Organization have agreed a new, wide-ranging collaboration to accelerate action to curb environmental health risks that cause an estimated 12.6 million deaths a year.

Today in Nairobi, Mr. Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, signed an agreement to step up joint actions to combat air pollution, climate change and antimicrobial resistance, as well as improve coordination on waste and chemicals management, water quality, and food and nutrition issues. The collaboration also includes joint management of the BreatheLife advocacy campaign to reduce air pollution for multiple climate, environment and health benefits.

Although the two agencies cooperate in a range of areas, this represents the most significant formal agreement on joint action across the spectrum of environment and health issues in over 15 years.

“There is an urgent need for our two agencies to work more closely together to address the critical threats to environmental sustainability and climate – which are the foundations for life on this planet.  This new agreement recognizes that sober reality,” said UN Environment’s Solheim.

“Our health is directly related to the health of the environment we live in. Together, air, water and chemical hazards kill some 12.6 million people a year. This cannot and must not continue,” said WHO’s Tedros.

He added: “Most of these deaths occur in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America where environmental pollution takes its biggest health toll.”

The new collaboration creates a more systematic framework for joint research, development of tools and guidance, capacity building, monitoring of Sustainable Development Goals, global and regional partnerships, and support to regional health and environment fora.

The two agencies will develop a joint work programme and hold an annual high-level meeting to evaluate progress and make recommendations for continued collaboration.

The WHO-UN Environment collaboration follows a Ministerial Declaration on Health, Environment and Climate Change calling for the creation of a global “Health, Environment and Climate Change” Coalition, at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP 22 in Marrakesh, Morocco in 2016.

Just last month, under the overarching topic “Towards a Pollution-Free Planet”, the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), which convenes environment ministers worldwide, adopted a resolution on Environment and Health, called for expanded partnerships with relevant UN agencies and partners, and for an implementation plan to tackle pollution.

Note to Editors 

Priority areas of cooperation between WHO and UN Environment include:

  • Air Quality – More effective air quality monitoring including guidance to countries on standard operating procedures; more accurate environment and health assessments, including economic assessment; and advocacy, including the BreatheLife campaign promoting air pollution reductions for climate and health benefits.
  • Climate – Tackling vector-borne disease and other climate-related health risks, including through improved assessment of health benefits from climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.
  • Water – Ensuring effective monitoring of data on water quality, including through data sharing and collaborative analysis of pollution risks to health.
  • Waste and chemicals – Promotion of more sustainable waste and chemicals management, particularly in the area of pesticides, fertilizers, use of antimicrobials. The collaboration aims to advance the goal of sound lifecycle chemicals management by 2020, a target set out at the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

Ongoing WHO/UN Environment collaboration includes:

  • Ministerial Declaration on Health, Environment and Climate Change –WHO/UN Environment announcement at COP22  –
  • BreatheLife campaign has engaged countries, regions and cities in commitments to reduce air pollution for climate and health benefits, covering more than 120 million people across the planet, including Santiago, Chile; London, England; Washington DC, USA, and Oslo, Norway, with major cities in Asia and Africa set to join.
  • Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) – which has included effective past actions to phase out lead paint, mercury emissions and persistent organic pollutants.

Media contacts

UN Environment News & Media,, +254 715 618 081

Sarah Cumberland, Communications officer, WHO,, +41 79 206 1403

Related Sustainable Development Goals

Goal 3

Good Health and Well-Being

Goal 7

Affordable and Clean Energy

Goal 11

Sustainable Cities and Communities

Goal 12

Sustainable Consumption and Production

Goal 13

Climate Action

UN: World population to hit 9.8 billion by 2050


21 June 2017 – The world population is now nearly 7.6 billion, up from 7.4 billion in 2015, spurred by the relatively high levels of fertility in developing countries – despite an overall drop in the number of children people have around the globe – the United Nations today reported.

The concentration of global population growth is in the poorest countries, according to World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision, presenting a challenge as the international community seeks to implement the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which seeks to end poverty and preserve the planet.

“With roughly 83 million people being added to the world’s population every year, the upward trend in population size is expected to continue, even assuming that fertility levels will continue to decline,” said the report’s authors at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

At this rate, the world population is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and surpass 11.2 billion in 2100.

The growth is expected to come, in part, from the 47 least developed countries, where the fertility rate is around 4.3 births per woman, and whose population is expected to reach 1.9 billion people in 2050 from the current estimate of one billion.

In addition, the populations in 26 African countries are likely to “at least double” by 2050, according to the report.

That trend comes despite lower fertility rates in nearly all regions of the world, including in Africa, where rates fell from 5.1 births per woman from 2000-2005 to 4.7 births from 2010-2015.

In contrast, the birth rate in Europe was 1.6 births per woman in 2010-2015, up from 1.4 births in 2010-2015.  “During 2010-2015, fertility was below the replacement level in 83 countries comprising 46 per cent of the world’s population,” according to the report.  The lower fertility rates are resulting in an ageing population, with the number of people aged 60 or over expected to more than double by 2050 and triple by 2100, from the current 962 million to 3.1 billion.  Africa, which has the youngest age distribution of any region, is projected to experience a rapid ageing of its population, the report noted.

“Although the African population will remain relatively young for several more decades, the percentage of its population aged 60 or over is expected to rise from five per cent in 2017 to around nine per cent in 2050, and then to nearly 20 per cent by the end of the century,” the authors wrote.

In terms of other population trends depicted in the report, the population of India, which currently ranks as the second most populous country with 1.3 billion inhabitants, will surpass China’s 1.4 billion citizens, by 2024.

By 2050, the third most populous country will be Nigeria, which currently ranks seventh, and which is poised to replace the United States.

The report also noted the impacts of the flows of migrants and refugees between countries, in particular noting the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis and the estimated outflow of 4.2 million people in 2010-2015.

In terms of migration, “although international migration at or around current levels will be insufficient to compensate fully for the expected loss of population tied to low levels of fertility, especially in the European region, the movement of people between countries can help attenuate some of the adverse consequences of population ageing,” the authors wrote.

UNHCR Figures at a Glance

Figures ata glance

Introducing Haiti’s cholera plight “into the minds and hearts of people of power and influence, and people who wish to do good in key places.”

Miami Herald

“…building a consortium to finance long-term water and sanitation needs in Haiti….”

“….The United Nations announced the long-term project last month as part of a new approach to eliminating the water-borne disease in Haiti. The proposal is part of a $400 million package then-U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon laid out after delivering a long sought after apology to the people of Haiti for the U.N.’s role in introducing the deadly disease in Haiti with the arrival of Nepalese peacekeepers nearly seven years ago. Since then, the disease has killed more than 9,400 Haitians and infected more than 802,000 people….”


For the first time since a cholera epidemic believed to be imported by United Nations peacekeepers began killing thousands of Haitians nearly six years ago, the office of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has acknowledged that the United Nations played a role in the initial outbreak and that a “significant new set of U.N. actions” will be needed to respond to the crisis.

NY Times

“…..The first victims lived near a base housing 454 United Nations peacekeepers freshly arrived from Nepal, where a cholera outbreak was underway, and waste from the base often leaked into the river. …….”



“At a minimum, the U.N. requires a full-fledged cease-fire or weekly 48-hour humanitarian pauses to reach the millions of people in need throughout Aleppo and replenish the food and medicine stocks, which are running dangerously low.”

NY Times

“….Two million people in the contested Syrian city of Aleppo lack access to running water because of escalated fighting…”


South Sudan: At Juba’s sprawling displacement camp on the outskirts of the capital, women risk starvation and/or sexual assault.

NY Times


UNICEF: The number of children who do not attend school is rising, child marriage has not dropped in decades and millions of young children will die mostly preventable deaths by 2030 if global poverty is not addressed



** UN: More than 200 million girls and women globally have suffered genital mutilation, far higher than previously estimated.


**  “…..half of girls and women who have been cut live in just three countries – Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia…..”


U.N. report: International peacekeepers in Central African Republic implicated in the alleged abuse of children between December 2013 and June 2014


**  The U.N. has come under fire for its handling of the allegations

**  The implicated peacekeepers were not under United Nations command at the time

**  The three-member review panel harshly criticized the way the U.N. and its agencies dealt with the alleged abuse, calling it “seriously flawed” and a “gross institutional failure.”

**  3 senior U.N. officials had abused their authority by failing to take action.

Date: 02/15/2012 Description: Map of the Central African Republic © CIA World Factbook


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