UN agencies call for action to protect maternal and child health amid climate crisis
IN Protecting maternal, newborn and child health from the effects of climate changeWorld Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) jointly emphasize the neglect, underreporting and underestimation of the impact of climate events on maternal and child health.
It also attracts attention to the importance of integrating maternal or child health into national climate change plans given the disparity in meeting the needs of women, newborns and children in the climate change discourse in many countries.
Climate action now
“Climate change poses an existential threat to us all, but pregnant women, babies and children face some of the most serious consequences of all,” warned Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director-General for Universal Health Coverage at WHO.
“Children’s futures must be protected consciously, which means taking climate action now for their health and survival, while ensuring their unique needs are recognized in the climate response,” he added.
The call to action, issued ahead of the COP28 climate conference, outlines seven urgent measures, including sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, climate finance measures and specific inclusion of the needs of pregnant women, babies and children in policies.
In the midst of a year marked by devastating climate disasters, including forest fires, floods, heat waves and droughts, the impacts on pregnant women and children are severe.
Higher temperatures globally also contribute to the spread of deadly diseases, which especially affect pregnant women and children.
Research indicates that damage can begin in the womb, leading to various complications for both mothers and children, with consequences that last a lifetime.
UNICEF Deputy Director of Programs Omar Abdi emphasized the vulnerability of children’s bodies and minds to pollution, disease and extreme weather.
“The climate crisis puts every child’s fundamental right to health and well-being at risk. It is our collective responsibility to listen and put children at the center of urgent climate action, starting at COP28. This is the time to finally put children on the climate change agenda,” he said.
Diene Keita, Deputy Director of Programs at UNFPA, also highlighted the unique health needs of women and girls and called for tailored solutions.
“To find climate solutions that recognize the particular health needs and vulnerabilities of women and girls, we must start by asking the right questions … global climate solutions must support – not sacrifice – gender equality,” she said.