Biodiversity loss threatens human survival — expert
Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - November 8, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The world is facing a serious threat of biodiversity loss that will directly affect human health and survival, a biodiversity expert has said.      

Theresa Mundita Lim, executive director of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), said a workshop held in Manila last Nov. 5 sought to address inter-linkages between human health and biodiversity in the region.

Lim explained that the three-day workshop convened experts from the Ministries of Environment and Health in the ASEAN member states to discuss national experiences and best practices on mainstreaming biodiversity and health, and incorporating biodiversity considerations in national and regional health programs.

The Departments of Environment and Natural Resources and of Health, in cooperation with the World Health Organization, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the United Nations University’s Institute for International Global Health hosted the event.

“The workshop is part of a series of ASEAN advocacy on mainstreaming biodiversity – the integration of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in development sectors such as health, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, science, technology and education. The advocacy also highlights the importance of biodiversity in sustainable development, poverty reduction, climate change adaptation and mitigation, business, trade and international cooperation,” she said.       

Lim explained that biodiversity loss is a crosscutting environmental threat that will affect the health sector, as the natural ingredients of medicines come from plants and animals.             

“Losing our biodiversity means losing the source of raw materials for our medicines. It is important that government agencies and pharmaceutical companies integrate biodiversity conservation in their policies, decisions and programs. This is one of the many reasons why mainstreaming biodiversity in the health sector is important,” she said.        

During the workshop, health and environment experts discussed biodiversity and health as they relate to food and water; diseases and traditional and modern medicine; physical, mental, and cultural wellbeing; and adaptation to climate change. 

The workshop is expected to identify gaps in integrating biodiversity conservation and health programs in the National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans of ASEAN member states; promote transboundary and regional cooperation; and align national health plans with the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and relevant decisions of the Conference of Parties to the CBD.

“Human health ultimately depends on ecosystems services that are made possible by biodiversity and its products. Biodiversity provides humans with food and water; and materials for shelter, clothing and medicine; among other basic needs for survival. Forests indirectly contribute to human health and safety by regulating climate and disease, purifying air and water, and preventing soil erosion,” Lim added.

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