Commitment to Protect Children's Health from Environmental Hazards
We, pediatricians of the Union of National African Pediatric Societies and Associations and other health care providers and environment and public health officials, have come together in Nairobi on 12-14 October, 2005 to commit ourselves to work jointly towards the protection of children's health from environmental threats.
That most diseases in children are linked to environmental exposures. These include waterborne, foodborne and vector-borne diseases, respiratory diseases, infections, injuries, arsenicosis, and fluorosis and other diseases linked to chemical and physical threats;
That environmental hazards arise from both man-made and natural sources (e.g. natural toxins, fluoride, lead, mercury and arsenic), which can also cause serious harm to children;
That environmental exposure is increasing in many African countries. Unique adverse health effects can occur when the embryo and fetus, newborn, child and adolescent (collectively referred to as "children" in our context) are exposed to environmental hazards during early periods of special vulnerability;
That in African countries the environmental health problems affecting children are further worsened by poverty, illiteracy, HIV/AIDS and malnutrition. These environmental problems include: indoor air pollution, lack of access to safe water and sanitation, exposure to hazardous chemicals, accidents and injuries. As these countries industrialize, children are becoming exposed to toxicants commonly associated with the richer countries. The lack of regulations in the African countries adds to the problem; That some toxicants are being dumped in the environment near the African continent, including plastics and outdated nuclear equipment;
That protecting the integrity of the life-sustaining systems of the earth is important to ensure children's health. Therefore, addressing global climate change must be included in efforts to promote children's health and environment;
That the health, environment, housing, water, energy and education sectors must take concerted action at all levels (local, national, global), together with other sectors, in serious efforts to enable African countries to assess the magnitude of the problem and establish culturally appropriate prevention strategies.
That the pediatric societies at the country level should be empowered to work with the other stakeholders and the international agencies;
That children are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of many chemical, biological and physical agents. Children should be protected from injury, poisoning and hazards in the environments where they are born, live, learn, play, and grow;
That all children should have the right to safe, clean and supportive environments that ensure their survival, growth, development, healthy life and well-being. The recognition of this right is especially important as the world moves towards the adoption of sustainable development practices;
That it is the responsibility of communities, assisted by local and national authorities and policymakers, national and international organizations, and professionals dealing with health, environment, water, energy and education issues to ensure that actions are initiated, developed and sustained in all countries to promote the recognition, assessment and mitigation of physical, chemical and biological hazards, and also of social hazards that threaten children's health and quality of life.
WE COMMIT OURSELVES
To use our knowledge and network to protect the children from all environmental hazards and reemphasize the need to provide children with access to safe water and air, adequate sanitation, safe food and appropriate shelter;
To advocate and take action in promotion of children's health and environment at all levels, including political, administrative and community levels;
To incorporate the pediatric environmental history taking into our practice;
To set an example by being more concerned about what we generate from our clinics;
To strengthen research in identifying problem areas in order to set priorities and allocate resources;
To disseminate more knowledge about the special vulnerability of children to our peers, colleagues, the community and policymakers;
To encourage industry, small scale manufacturers and agriculturists to ensure safe production, use and disposal of chemicals and other hazardous or potentially hazardous products;
To develop and/or strengthen partnerships among pediatric, nursing, environmental and education associations and urge the International Pediatric Association, the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Health Organization and other governmental, nongovernmental and other international organizations for the protection of children's environmental health;
To identify actions that need to happen immediately and to work together to make an action plan to bring those actions about;
And to be role models as practitioners in child health towards ensuring adequate disposal of hazardous products and act as advisors to our communities.
Nairobi, October 14, 2005