Video (and radio) message from Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General, World Health Organization
7 April 2003
World Health Day
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Friends and Colleagues,
We are here today, on World Health Day, to stress our commitment to protecting three of our greatest assets: health, the environment and children. The three are inter-linked. Ensuring Healthy Environments for Children - the theme of this year's World Health Day - is vital to our efforts to help shape the future of life.
The biggest threats to children’s health are found in the very places that should be safest – their homes, their schools and their communities. Every year over 5 million children ages 0 to 14 die from diseases directly related to their environments. They die of diarrhoea, respiratory illnesses, malaria and other vector-borne diseases, injuries, and other environmental threats in and around their homes.
Unsafe water, poor hygiene and sanitation, air pollution, including from dirty household fuels used for cooking and heating, tobacco smoke, hazardous chemicals and other environmental threats affect the health of children disproportionately.
The deaths and overall ill-health can be prevented. We know what to do. We have developed strategies to combat these environmental risks to children’s health. They need to be implemented on a global and national scale, and at the household and community level.
In September 2002, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, we inaugurated the Healthy Environments for Children Alliance. We are now working with different groups around the world, developing a vibrant movement capable of mobilizing worldwide support and intervening to make children’s lives healthier where they live, learn and play. By working together on many fronts, by building on existing programmes, and by adapting concrete actions to local needs, we can make a real difference. Together, we are better able to address the many health and environment issues faced by communities, countries and regions all around the world.
I urge everyone to look around and think about what they can do to help so that every child grows up in a healthy home, school and community. And then, take action. The future development of our children depends on our action today.