Enviroment & Health

The links between the environment and human health are powerful. ... more than 1 billion people breathe unhealthy air, and 3 million people die each year from air pollution -– two thirds of them poor people, mostly women and children, who die from indoor pollution caused by burning wood and dung. Tropical diseases such as malaria and African guinea worm are closely linked with polluted water sources and poor sanitation. Kofi Annan, 2002

This key sheet is part of a series of awareness raising tools developed by Irish Aid to accompany its Environment Policy for Sustainable Development (awaiting publication) Key strategies for implementing the policy are
i) mainstreaming, where the environment is recognised as a critical part of sustainable development and is taken into account in all policies, programmes, activities and funding decisions; and
ii) partnership, where Irish Aid works with national governments, multilateral organisations, international agencies and civil society organisations to contribute to sustainable development.
The first step in environment mainstreaming is to have an understanding of how the environment is linked to the development challenge or sector YOU are responsible for. The aim of this Key Sheet is to provide preliminary information on why consideration of the environment is critical to improving health and to indicate where to find additional information. More detailed guidelines on mainstreaming the environment into the health sector will accompany this sheet at a later date.
Environment matters to human health because:
  • Poor sanitation and unsafe water supplies lead to water-related diseases
  • Indoor and outdoor air pollution contribute to respiratory disease
  • Changing climatic and environmental conditions will increase the incidence of malaria
  • Environmental degradation reduces crop yields and results in malnutrition and poor health