World Health Organization (WHO)
Topic 1: The Impact of Climate Change, Desertification and Land Degradation on Global Health
Land degradation is caused by multiple forces, including extreme weather conditions particularly drought, and human activities that pollute or degrade the quality of soils and land utility negatively affecting food production, livelihoods, and the production and provision of other ecosystem goods and services.
Land degradation has accelerated during the 20th century due to increasing and combined pressures of agricultural and livestock production (over-cultivation, overgrazing, forest conversion), urbanization, deforestation, and extreme weather events such as droughts and coastal surges which salinate land. Desertification, is a form of land degradation, by which fertile land becomes desert.
These social and environmental processes are stressing the world's arable lands and pastures essential for the provision of food and water and quality air. Land degradation and desertification can affect human health through complex pathways. As land is degraded and in some places deserts expand, food production is reduced, water sources dry up and populations are pressured to move to more hospitable areas. The potential impacts of desertification on health include:
Higher threats of malnutrition from reduced food and water supplies;
More water- and food-borne diseases that result from poor hygiene and a lack of clean water;
Respiratory diseases caused by atmospheric dust from wind erosion and other air pollutants;
The spread of infectious diseases as populations migrate.
Topic 2: Promoting Universal Vaccination and Combating Campaigns of Misinformation
Vaccination has greatly reduced the burden of infectious diseases. Only clean water, also considered to be a basic human right, performs better. Paradoxically, a vociferous anti-vaccine lobby thrives today despite the undeniable success of vaccination programmes against formerly fearsome diseases that are now rare in developed countries.
Understandably, vaccine safety gets more public attention than vaccination effectiveness, but independent experts and WHO have shown that vaccines are far safer than therapeutic medicines. Modern research has spurred the development of less reactogenic products, such as acellular pertussis vaccines and rabies vaccines produced in cell culture. Today, vaccines have an excellent safety record and most “vaccine scares” have been shown to be false alarms. Misguided safety concerns in some countries have led to a fall in vaccination coverage, causing the re-emergence of pertussis and measles.
Despite scientific evidence supporting the fact that vaccines are fundamental tools for preventing infectious diseases, a percentage of the population still refuses some or all of them. Vaccine hesitancy has become a widespread issue, and its complexity lies in the great variety of factors that can influence decisions about immunization, which are not just vaccine-related concerns, but also involve personal and societal levels.