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World Health Day 2022 - Our planet, our health

"The WHO estimates that more than 13 million deaths annually are now due to avoidable environmental causes, including those related to climate change, which they call the greatest health threat to humanity."

For World Health Day, April 7th, 2022, we reaffirm our collective commitments to the United Nations Global Compact and Universal Health Coverage and join the WHO in the call for our planet, our health. The focus this year by the WHO on planetary health is appropriate. Surrounded by troubling news of war, pandemics, climate disaster, poverty, and famine we need now more than ever a strong vision and pathway towards peace, health and sustainability. We also recognize that we need to break our silos and outdated economic growth paradigms and embrace new models of an interdependent and sustainable world.

As pointed out in the Lancet editorial for this years’ World Health Day, women and girls are the most vulnerable groups in these times of crisis, and yet their "resilience and effective leadership" holds a great promise and opportunity. Addressing gender equality at a global and local level is a foundational and necessary step toward planetary health. The challenges set out for us are connected. To undertake a planetary health approach, we need to consider not only the impact of the environment on our health, but also the need to correct inequities, support global human rights, and redress the harms of colonialism, and all this work needs to happen simultaneously.

hera is a collective group of professionals working around the world providing support to health and development initiatives at the programme, thematic and organisational levels. We are at the table of many conversations with many decision-makers. In all our efforts, we underscore the importance of addressing the social determinants of health, facilitating participation, community support and protecting human rights. These are our core commitments. We are also working hard to ensure that environmental protection is understood as a determinant and protector of health and wellbeing. It is not an external factor or something to be omitted in the evidence.

In terms of our own practices, activities and organisational footprint, hera has long had an ecological outlook. We have been compensating for or offsetting our Co2 emission associated with air travel since 2011. Our office uses green energy sources, and we have a policy of rational water, energy and raw material use. Initially as a goal and now also partly because of the pandemic and the shift to an online office, all our partners and staff have the option to work remotely. This year we formed a new internal climate change working group to further review our practices, to support the goal of receiving third-party certification for our activities, and to look for more opportunities to reduce our impacts and enhance our contributions toward global sustainability. Stay tuned to learn more about our efforts and new strategies.

hera also has a long track record in supporting and advocating for gender equity and in providing expertise in the field of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Gender, Women’s Empowerment and Violence against Women and Girls. Our commitment to gender equality and justice underpins our intersectional understanding of the challenges of planetary health and our commitment to this goal. For International Women’s Day this year, focused on gender and sustainability, we highlighted our work for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation supporting a Gender, HIV and Youth Mainstreaming strategy for a Farmer-led seed system program in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. This work clearly illustrates the opportunities and intersection of gender and sustainability, but it can come in more subtle examples as well. At our last Extraordinary General Assembly, our partners issued a call for further guidance on integrating a gender lens and providing support that encompasses a gender and social justice approach. To this end, a gender working group has been appointed to develop a manual for gender equality in monitoring and evaluation assignments. Stay tuned for more news about this initiative.

In 2022 we face many complex global challenges. In some way, these challenges are made more complex by interdependencies and interconnections. Yet, it's this interdependence that holds the key. We are in this together. As World Health Day was initially designated to celebrate the creation of the WHO, we send our congratulations for 74 years of service. hera has been a long time collaborator with the WHO, over the last seven years we have conducted over 26 evaluation assignments for the WHO and we are proud of this work, supporting the WHO in promoting health for all, serving the vulnerable and promoting planetary health.