UN Environment Programme Joins WHO Alliance to Advance One Health Approach
Safer and more sustainable food systems – from production to sales in food markets is key to a One-Health Approach.

UN Environment has joined a three-way alliance with the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Animal Health Organization (OIE), and WHO to advance “One-Health” solutions to both ecosystem degradation and pandemic threats, leaders of the four agencies said on Friday.

The statement followed a meeting this week of the Tripartite FAO, WHO and OIE partnership – which now has become a “Quadripartite”.

“The One Health approach aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals, ecosystems and the wider environment,” said WHO in a press release. “It mobilizes multiple sectors, disciplines and communities to work together to foster well-being and tackle threats to health and ecosystems. And it addresses the collective need for clean water, energy and air, safe and nutritious food, action on climate change, and contributing to sustainable development.”

The work of the newly expanded alliance will be focused on a One Health Joint Plan of Action, which includes six main action tracks: enhancing countries’ capacity to strengthen health systems under a One Health approach; reducing the risks from emerging or resurfacing zoonotic epidemics and pandemics; controlling and eliminating endemic zoonotic, neglected tropical or vector-borne diseases; strengthening the assessment, management and communication of food safety risks; curbing the silent pandemic of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and better integrating the environment into the One Health approach.

Increased awareness of One Health

As the world enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with an estimated cost of $8 to 16 trillion, there is increased awareness and broad recognition of the importance of One Health as a long-term, viable and sustainable approach.  The G7, G20 and UN Food Systems Summit have all given a nod to the approach, along with the increased references by WHO and its partners.

But the hard work of reforming food systems, from production to markets, as well as halting related deforestation and ecosystem destruction, are much more formidable challenges that the organisations have barely begun to face.

Last year saw the Tripartite implement a number of initial initiatives, including on antimicrobial resistance,  a One Health High-Level Expert Panel, and guidance on better management – but not the banning – of wild animal sales in markets – in the wake of the COVID pandemic, whose origins may have emerged from the capture, transport and slaughter of SARS-CoV2 infected wild animals at the Wuhan, China market.

Plan implementation the key challenge

“Now the challenge is implementation: how do we translate our work on the ground to support our Members? And how do we mobilize funding and financing mechanisms to support the Joint Plan for Action?” said FAO Director QU Dongyu, handing over the chair of the Secretariat to WHO.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “We need to build a more comprehensive and coordinated One Health governance structure at global level. We need a strong workforce, committed political will, and sustained financial investment. We need to develop a more proactive way of communicating and engaging across sectors, disciplines and communities to elicit the change we need.”  (WHO)

Image Credits: Michael Casmir/Pierce Mill Media.

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