World agencies team up to tackle emerging health threats
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The world organisations for human and animal health, food and the environment issued their first joint action plan on Monday aimed at detecting and tackling the next potential pandemic.
Shaken by the Covid-19, the four agencies teamed up to combat emerging health threats by targeting the links between ecosystem degradation, food system failures, infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance.
The so-called One Health Joint Plan of Action "aims to create a framework to integrate systems and capacity so that we can collectively better prevent, predict, detect, and respond to health threats," the agencies said.
"This initiative seeks to improve the health of humans, animals, plants, and the environment."
The plan was launched by three United Nations agencies -- the Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) -- plus the World Organisation for Animal Health.
It is hoped that the five-year (2022-2026) plan will strengthen collaboration, capacity and coordination, which should "strengthen the world's defences against epidemics and pandemics such as Covid-19", said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Three-quarters of all emerging infectious diseases originate in animals, the WHO said when announcing the partnership back in May 2021.
The plan focuses on expanding capacities on emerging and re-emerging zoonotic epidemics; endemic zoonotic, neglected tropical and vector-borne diseases; food safety risks; antimicrobial resistance; and on the environment.
- Degradation -
"Everyone has the right to a clean and healthy environment -- the foundation of all life on Earth," said UNEP executive director Inger Andersen.
"The current pandemic unequivocally demonstrates that the degradation of nature is driving up health risks across the board," she said.
The joint document said there was an "urgent need to reassess and transform the interactions between humans, animals, plants and the environment they share".
The plan said economic development had often come at the expense of ecosystems, a healthy environment and animal welfare.
With the global human population projected to reach eight billion in 2023, those pressures on natural systems are "tremendous" and expected to grow.
The pandemic revealed "vulnerabilities at all levels", according to the joint plan.
"Future pandemics will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, do more damage to the world economy and kill more people than Covid-19, unless there is a transformative change in the global approach to our relationship with the environment and how we tackle disease emergence, spillovers and spread."
The four agencies hope the plan can address the underlying drivers of disease emergence and ill health, improve disease prevention and preparedness and mitigate the impacts of health risks and threats.
The action plan will be officially launched on Tuesday at the World Health Summit in Berlin.