UNICEF, along with several government institutions and development partners, held a workshop to address growing environmental risks to children’s health. This included air pollution, the impact of solid waste and toxic materials, and health hazards which have been caused by climate change.
According to a December 5 press release from UNICEF Cambodia, 18 ministries joined with development partners in the workshop, held last week in Kampong Cham under the auspices of UNICEF.
The purpose of the workshop – the first of its kind – was to share knowledge and initiate measures to respond to the growing environmental risks to children’s health.
Kul Hero, director of the health protection department of the Ministry of Health, said at the workshop that the environment and climate are important issues for the government. Both issues are affecting more and more people including children.
“This workshop is an important step forward in asking partners to take this situation seriously and identify areas for further research that are needed for policy-making,” he added.
During the workshop, UNICEF highlighted the importance of a healthy environment for children and called for attention to be paid to health, education and climate resilience.
“The right to good health and development is one of the most fundamental rights of the child,” said Anirban Chatterjee, UNICEF’s acting representative in Cambodia.
He added that it was crucial that all stakeholders came together to work together and address those challenges.
“UNICEF will continue to work to ensure that children are at the heart of every decision on health-environmental issues,” he concluded.
UNICEF has released its forecast of the environmental risk factors affecting children, based on the Global Toxic Truth Report, published by UNICEF and Pure Earth in 2020.
The report incorporates the findings that more than 50% of Cambodian children may have high levels of lead in their blood, which was a catalyst for further action leading up to the workshop.
The same report added that lead is an active toxin in the nerves that can cause irreversible damage to children’s brains, leading to learning disabilities, mental health and behavioral problems, including the reduction of the full potential of earning a living.
In addition to the lead, Cambodia also has the third highest level of air pollution in Southeast Asia.
According to preliminary data from the recent Cambodian Demographic and Health Survey, the Kingdom has made significant progress in reducing child mortality. The under-five mortality rate has dropped from 124 per 1,000 live births in 2000 to 16 per 1,000 live births in 2021.
Reducing environmental risks to health is essential now in order to better support the growth and development of children so that they can reach their full potential and benefit the country’s development.