22.07.2022

One Health: a healthy environment is key to human health

Rainforest in Rwanda

German Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke recently attended the Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) hosted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Rwanda, where she also gave a keynote introducing the ‘Nature for Health’ multi-partner trust fund.

This fund focuses on promoting the ‘One Health’ approach worldwide, one of whose objectives is to help prevent future pandemics.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has provided us with a dramatic example of how human health and well-being are inextricably dependent on a healthy environment. With the protection of ecosystems able to play a major role in preventing future pandemics, the One Health approach emphasises the interconnections between human health, and the health of animals and the natural environment. 

In a keynote given at a high-level Nature for Health event organised as part of APAC, Lemke introduced the fund as follows: 

“Human health and well-being, and the resilience of our society and our economy, are all essentially dependent on a healthy natural environment. Healthy ecosystems are the basis for our existence. The coronavirus pandemic has clearly demonstrated how the health of human populations depends closely on the health of animals and ecosystems. We should now utilise these insights as part of the One Health approach. To reduce the risk of future zoonotic diseases and pandemics, we need an ambitious policy of conservation to protect the natural world.” 

During this event at the Africa Protected Areas Congress in Rwanda, Lemke also highlighted the support given by the German Government to support the One Health approach in Africa. Part of this support is provided in the form of the Nature for Health (N4H) multi-partner trust fund

During the Congress, Lemke also announced that the fund would be opening an application procedure for interested African countries on 18 August 2022. 

Nature for Health multi-partner trust fund: EUR 50 million initial capital from the International Climate Initiative

The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) and its partner organisations launched the Nature for Health multi-partner trust in March 2022. The initiative aims to provide support to partner countries as they implement preventive One Health strategies. The BMUV has provided the Fund with initial capital of around EUR 50 million via the International Climate Initiative (IKI).

Fund partners include the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the CBD Secretariat, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH, formerly OIE) and the EcoHealth Alliance.

The Africa Protected Areas Congress

The Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC, 18 to 23 July in Kigali/Rwanda) is the first ever continent-wide gathering of African leaders, citizens and interest groups that aims to discuss and focus on the roles played by protected areas for various key issues, including: 

  • Conserving nature 
  • Safeguarding Africa’s iconic wildlife 
  • Delivering vital life-supporting ecosystem services 
  • Promoting sustainable development
  • Conserving Africa’s cultural heritage and traditions 

With financial support provided by the German Federal Environment Ministry via the IKI, the IUCN is organising One Health events as part of the Congress programme, which will facilitate knowledge sharing, discussion, networking and collaboration between key interest groups working on this approach. 

Background: the One Health approach 

One Health is an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimise the health of people, animals and ecosystems. It recognises that the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the wider environment (including ecosystems) are closely linked and interdependent. 

The approach mobilises multiple sectors, disciplines and communities at varying levels of society to work together to foster well-being and tackle threats to health and ecosystems, while addressing the collective need for clean water, energy and air, safe and nutritious food, taking action on climate change, and contributing to sustainable development.

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