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UN agencies step up efforts against environmental health risks

GENEVA, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have agreed a new, wide-ranging collaboration on Wednesday to accelerate action to curb environmental health risks that cause an estimated 12.6 million deaths a year.

The two UN agencies inked a deal in Nairobi, Kenya, on Wednesday 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.

It represents the most significant formal agreement on joint action across the spectrum of environment and health issues in over 15 years. The two agencies will develop a joint work program and hold an annual high-level meeting to evaluate progress and make recommendations for continued collaboration.

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

"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 UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim.

"Our health is directly related to the health of the environment we live in. Together, air, water and chemical hazards kill more than 12.6 million people a year. This must not continue," said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "Most of these deaths occur in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America where environmental pollution takes its biggest health toll."

Last month, under the overarching topic "Towards a Pollution-Free Planet", the UN Environment Assembly convened environment ministers worldwide in adopting a resolution on Environment and Health, calling for expanded partnerships with relevant UN agencies and partners, and for an implementation plan to tackle pollution.


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