The Wales Africa Health Links Network holds an annual lecture on a topic of interest to those engaged in global health activity in Wales. In 2021, we welcomed Prof. Anthony Costello to deliver a lecture on the topic: “A Future for our Children?” Anthony is a professor of International Child Health and Director of the UCL Institute for Global Health and Senior Advisor to CAP2030 – Children in All Policies.
What did we learn?
The lecture touched upon some of the most pressing global health inequities of our time, from maternal mortality to the COVID-19 vaccine apartheid and the pandemic's impact on child undernutrition in low- and middle-income countries. Prof. Costello also highlighted the climate crisis and its effects on children's future health globally. According to the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change, "climate change is the greatest health threat facing the world in the 21st century." Climate change amplifies world inequities between the Global North— which is overwhelmingly responsible for producing carbon pollution— and the Global South, which suffers the disproportionate impacts of climate change. Such inequities are particularly evident when considering the effects of climate change on health, as poorer countries face increased food insecurity and malnutrition, as well as a lack of access to safe water and sanitation.
What work is being done to protect the health of future generations globally?
Prof. Costello and colleagues have set up a WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission and the CAP2030 initiative, which place children at the centre of the Sustainable Development Goals. Summarising the key recommendations set forth by the WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission: "A future for the world's children?" Costello emphasised a multi-sectoral approach to protecting child health, increased investment in children's health for lifelong benefits, novel indicators for measuring country progress, and protecting children from exploitative commercial marketing. Many of these recommendations are already being implemented by CAP2030's country partners around the world.
Responding to Prof. Costello's lecture, Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, discussed the steps being taken in Wales to address climate change, health inequalities, and poverty, through the Well-being of Future Generations Act. According to Howe, the Act addresses how the climate crisis creates and is associated with interconnected problems which occur both locally and globally; it recognises Wales' actions and responsibility towards other countries that are most impacted by climate change. The Act also prioritises shifting resources away from responding to emergencies to preventing problems from occurring in the first place so that future generations do not have to bear the brunt of them.
We were also joined by Mme Mpheng Molapo from the Lesotho Ministry of Education. In 2013, Lesotho became a signatory to the Eastern and Southern Africa Commitment (ESA 2013) in response to the deteriorating health of children and young people in the country. The ESA Commitment encourages cooperation between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education to link hospitals and health facilities with schools so that learners can easily access health services and receive a quality education. Mme Molapo further shed light on the challenges children in Lesotho face as a result of climate change. As the country experiences an increase in heavy droughts and floods, schools have been introducing innovative lessons into the curriculum, ranging from recycling to tree-planting methods to combat falling crop yields. Young learners in Lesotho working together to tackle climate change serves as both an inspiration and a reminder to the Global North of how its actions have impacted the lives of children everywhere.
Watch the full event here: