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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Health Note/Save the Children

Air Date: Week of September 6, 2002

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Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey reports on a new initiative announced at the Johannesburg summit. The World Health Organization wants to cut the number of child deaths from environmental hazards.

Transcript

CURWOOD: When water and corporations mix. Private business and the public water supply in South Africa is next on Living On Earth, after this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.

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TOOMEY: The U.N.’s World Health Organization announced a new Children’s Health Initiative at the Sustainable Development Summit in Johannesburg. Speaking at the summit, the WHO’s General Director Gro Harlem Brundtland told delegates that environmental hazards kill the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of children every 45 minutes. Preventing these deaths, she said, should become one of the highest social and political priorities of this decade.

Children are at risk from such things as poor sanitation, indoor air pollution from cooking stoves, and neurological damage from improperly applied pesticides. For instance, in places that can’t afford modern sewage systems, human wastes often pollutes ground and river water where children live and play. That situation contributes to the grim statistic of one child death every eight seconds from a water-related disease.

Children are at particular risk from environmental dangers because in relation to body weight, they breathe more air and consume more food and water than adults. The WHO is promoting such low-tech solutions as solar-powered water disinfection units, and insecticide treated mosquito netting to prevent malaria.

The WHO hopes to enlist partners in this effort from corporate, government and non-governmental organizations, as well as from local communities worldwide.

That’s this weeks Health Note. I’m Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to NPR’s Living on Earth.

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