oa South African Health Review - Environmental sustainability, climate change and health : reflections on the Millennium Development Goals
The Millennium Development Goals have highlighted the importance of ensuring environmental sustainability to mitigate and prevent climate change and to prevent any further deterioration of the health of the people of the world.
Progress to achieving these goals, however, has been limited and climate change may threaten gains in environmental protection and in health improvement. Climate change induced drought, land degradation and increasing food prices are resulting in food insecurity for millions of poor South Africans and increasing malnutrition among children and may lead to increased internal and external migration.
Although South Africa has policies that have embraced sustainable development, the natural environment is continually threatened. There is fierce competition for resources due to a declining economy and competing health threats such as the HIV, AIDS and tuberculosis epidemics.
Water is a threatened resource in South Africa. Poor people who are often subsistence farmers or urban slum dwellers are particularly vulnerable to drought and extremes of weather. Although access to potable water and appropriate sanitation has improved substantially, climate change can threaten these gains resulting in water- and food-borne disease.
Greenhouse gases can lead to global warming and locally to pollution-related respiratory disease. South Africa has a much larger carbon footprint relative to other African countries and needs to lead in addressing climate change.
Action needs to be taken at an individual, community and national level to increase awareness of the importance of environmental sustainability to health and well-being and to establish intersectoral collaboration necessary to address the health impacts of climate change.
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