World Health Day 2008 speech by Dr. Olivé
Dr. Jean-Marc Olivé, World Health Organization Representative to Viet Nam
Dr. Trinh Quan Huan, Vice Minister of Health
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
Marking today's World Health Day, the World Health Organization warns that the health of hundreds of millions of people may be put at risk by the effects of global climate change. In Viet Nam, the Ministry of Health with the support from WHO and UNICEF has organized today's event to draw attention to this issue through the global theme, "Protecting Health from Climate Change." The purpose of this ceremony is to raise awareness among state competent agencies, international and local organizations, research institutes and universities, communities and individuals on the impact of climate change in order to put health at the centre of government policies on global warming, while encouraging individuals to take action to limit greenhouse gases.
Climate change has already had a devastating impact on human health. Heat waves, storms, floods and droughts kill tens of thousands each year. Climate-sensitive ailments such as diarrhea, malaria and protein–energy malnutrition already cause more than 3 million deaths globally. Air pollution is a huge health threat for all people, but the poor are the first and the hardest hit. Climate change threatens to reverse our progress in fighting diseases of poverty, and to widen the gaps in health outcomes between the richest and the poorest. According to the calculation of WHO, climate change may already be the cause of an increase in the number of deaths – now at more than 150,000 annually – from malaria, diarrhoea, malnutrition and injury from floods, with half of those deaths occurring in Asia and the Pacific.
Climate change impacts negatively, not only on the health sector, but also other sectors such as transportation, industry, energy and agriculture to mention a few. Climate change will increase environmental pollution and will therefore affect the quality of water supply and sanitation. The increase in temperature together with the changes in other climate factors will weaken the resistance and immune systems of human and livestock. This creates favorable conditions for disease vectors and spreads epidemics in human and livestock.
In order to reduce the impact of climate change, we must all work together- all sectors, government and people, organizations and communities as well as individuals. We need the government to put human health at the heart of climate change policy, and renew efforts to protect health through achieving the Millennium Development Goals. We need the Ministry of Health to strengthen public health policy and practice to meet the challenges of climate change and protect their populations. We need to pay more attention to clean water supply, immunization, disease surveillance, mosquito control and disaster preparedness. And, most importantly, we need individuals to make personal choices that will both enhance health and reduce greenhouse gases, the main cause of climate change.
Dr Shigeru Omi, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, said: "Global warming has already impacted lives and health, and this problem will pose an even greater threat to mankind in coming decades if we fail to act now."
Supporting this message, and on behalf of WHO Representative Office in Viet Nam, I hope that we will work closely together to mitigate the negative impact of climate change on health. I also hope that this ceremony will be a good starting point to create a firm basis for further co-operation in the course of protecting human health from climate change in Viet Nam. I am particularly glad to see students from the School of Public Health in today's ceremony who I hope will actively contribute to the course of protecting health against the negative impact of climate change in Viet Nam.