22 January 2002 -- Johannesburg - The World Health Organization (WHO) is ready to assist South Africa in efforts to establish health at the centre of sustainable development initiatives, ahead of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to be held in Johannesburg in August.
This is the view of the Liaison Officer of the WHO's local office in Pretoria, Dr Welile Shasha, who said the Organization will stress the central role of health in the development process, and the linkages between health and poverty reduction in the months leading up to the WSSD.
He was speaking at the closure of a meeting on health and sustainable development in Johannesburg today, which was attended by over 120 health ministers, officials and delegates from SADC and E9 countries, who gathered to prepare a declaration aimed at placing health squarely on the agenda of the WSSD.
"Disease is a drain on development; conversely, investments in health are a concrete input into economic development," said Dr Shasha.
WHO released a report from the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health in Geneva last month which says a drastic scaling up of investments in health for poorest countries would lead to a six-fold return in the form of increased economic growth.
Dr Shasha said in the past, agendas had been outside the areas of people of need, but frameworks were now being developed to rectify this. "The goal is to help poor people get a better deal through improving and protecting their health. Health has been an undervalued strategy in the war against poverty. We have the evidence; now is the time to act," he said.
He said for development in South Africa to move ahead, the country would need to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the Organization stood ready to assist the Department of Health in efforts to curb the spread of the disease.
"Sustainable development is about improving people's quality of life, and making a better world for future generations. Involving children now in sustainable development by educating them about poverty alleviation and health promoting behaviours will help ensure that our efforts today for sustainable development will indeed be sustained," he said.
Dr Welile Shasha (012) 338-5204/082-553-5197
Greer van Zyl (012) 338-5211/082-375-8551