The vision of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) is a world where the health of present and future generations, especially children and pregnant women, is safe from toxic pollution.
GAHP is a collaborative body that facilitates the provision of technical and financial resources to governments and communities to reduce the impacts of pollution on health in low- and middle-income countries.
- Advocates for solutions that address pollution broadly – indoor and outdoor air, wastewater, and contaminated soils and water;
- Initiates activities that reduce adverse health impacts caused by contaminated sites;
- Works to help actively polluting small-scale industries and activities move to cleaner production practices;
- Measures project performance based on health and economic outcomes.
To attain its goals, five major barriers to achieving GAHPs’ vision in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) need to be overcome:
- General lack of awareness of the health effects of pollution. Achievement of GAHP’s vision is hampered by lack of international, national government and public awareness that pollution is the single, largest cause of death and disease in LMICs – bigger than malaria, TB and HIV combined. After two centuries of industrialization, developed countries have dealt effectively with pollution, while manufacturing and mining in poorer countries has grown rapidly with few environmental controls. LMICs, in turn, have other competing priorities and scarce resources, neglecting pollution at great cost to health and the economy.
- Misconceptions of the cost of solutions. Lack of awareness is compounded by misconceptions that:
- pollution cleanup and prevention is generally prohibitively expensive: affordable, low-cost solutions, including simply breaking exposure pathways, often exist;
- multinational corporations are responsible and should foot the bill: local, small-scale operators are the main culprits; and
- pollution is an inevitable cost of economic development: the growing movement for green growth says otherwise, and new technology can be used to avoid mistakes made in developed countries.
- Fragmentation of the environmental agenda. Although environmentalism began with the brown agenda, pollution challenges have fragmented into separate issues, such as outdoor air pollution, wastewater, chemicals, food safety. Overall, combating pollution has lost ground to climate change and biodiversity.
- Lack of prioritization in the development agenda. At present there are no internationally agreed development targets that prioritize combating pollution.
- Insufficient technical, financial and human resources. This lack of demand means financial institutions and aid donors do not supply funding to combat pollution. LMIC’s have many competing priorities and very limited budgets with which to address pollution problems.