WHO Says Environmental Improvements Could Save Millions of Lives


This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

This week, the World Health Organization released its first country-by-country look at environmental health risks. These include pollution, dangers in the workplace and ultraviolet radiation from the sun. They also include risks like noise, unsafe agricultural methods, climate change and people's behavior. The report says making environmental conditions healthier could prevent thirteen million deaths each year.

Research on close to two hundred countries found that the worst affected include Angola, Burkina Faso, Mali and Afghanistan.

The study found that two major environmental risks cause more than ten percent of the deaths in twenty-three countries. These risks are unsafe water and indoor air pollution from burning wood, coal or animal waste for fuel.

Poor countries suffer the most from environmental health risks. They lose about twenty times more healthy years of life per person per year than wealthy countries, the W.H.O. says. But it says even countries with better environmental conditions could still reduce disease rates by almost one-sixth.

In some poor countries, environmental improvements could cut disease rates by more than a third.

The main victims of environmentally related diseases are children under age five. For example, the report says they represent three-fourths of the deaths from diarrhea and lung infections.

W.H.O. official Susanne Weber-Mosdorf says the study is a first step toward helping national decision-makers to set goals for preventive action. But the findings show there is a lot individuals could do to reduce death rates.

Among suggestions given are using cleaner fuels like gas or electricity as well as using better cooking devices. Improving air flow and keeping children away from smoke could also prevent many lung infections. And lives could be saved with household water treatment and safe storage.

The Country Profiles of Environmental Burden of Disease can be found online at who.int. Or click on the direct click at our Web site, WWW.51VOA.COM.

Before we go, we want to update you on our report two weeks ago, when we talked about the definition of genocide. We discussed the violence in Darfur, in western Sudan, and the efforts to deploy a large peacekeeping force.

This week Sudan accepted the joint proposals of the African Union and the United Nations for a so-called hybrid operation. The African Union announced the news at a meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. A.U. officials said the force would be made up of around eighteen thousand troops and an additional three thousand seven hundred police officers.

But in Washington, a State Department spokesman said it was not yet clear if Sudan will accept non-African troops. If Sudan does not, it would mean rejection of the plan, he said, since African nations will likely not be able to provide the full number of troops.

Seven thousand African Union peacekeepers are already in Darfur.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Steve Ember.