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World Health Organization (WHO)

WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system.  It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.

In May 2008, the World Health Assembly (WHA) adopted a pdf-icon resolution (WHA 61.19) on climate change and health that provides a framework for action for national governments and for WHO to address linkages between health and climate change. The resolution calls for the health sector to scale-up adaptation projects; raise awareness of the impacts on health from climate change at national and international levels; and boost political attention and awareness.

In response to the resolution, WHO has consulted with Member States, and prepared a workplan, which was adopted by the 124th WHO Executive Board in January 2009. In meeting the objectives of the workplan, WHO will:

  • Carry out advocacy and raise awareness of the health implications of climate change
  • Engage in partnerships with other United Nations organizations and sectors other than the health sector, to ensure that health protection and health promotion are central to climate change
  • Promote and support the generation of scientific evidence on the links between climate change and health
  • Strengthen health systems to cope with the health threats posed by climate change

Moreover, following the initiatives of the UN Secretary-General and the Chief Executive Board (CEB), WHO is currently implementing a global framework to facilitate the reduction of the carbon footprint of all WHO offices and operations, and to promote best practice among health systems globally.

Action Pledge

The effects of climate change on health are receiving increasing attention as a central concern for policy makers and the public.  Human beings are already exposed to short and long term health risks of climate variability and change.  Climate-sensitive diseases and health conditions today kill millions.  They include malnutrition, which causes over 3.5 million deaths per year, diarrhoeal diseases, which kill over 1.8 million, and malaria, which kills almost 1 million. Climate change threatens to increase these disease burdens and erode the environmental conditions that support good health and well-being of mankind.

In compliance with this mandate from the health community, WHO is committed to strengthening:

  1. Its scientific, normative and policy development functions,
  2. Its operational programmes (e.g. combating infectious disease, improving water and sanitation services and hygiene practices, and providing health support in emergencies), and
  3. Its support to Ministries of Health and other health actors throughout the world.

WHO pledges to carry out the following specific actions:

  • Strengthening of health systems
  • Outreach and advocacy
  • Monitoring, surveillance and forecasting
  • Health development
  • Research and knowledge
  • Partnerships

pdf-icon Action Pledge (169 kB)

In October 2009, WHO submitted an pdf-icon update (72 kB) to its Action Pledge.

WHO headquarters

Director General's statement on World Health Day 2008

pdf-icon Work plan (2009) (47 kB)

Director General's speech The impact of global crises on health: money, weather and microbes

World Health Assembly Resolution on climate change and health

World Health Day 2008 on protecting health from climate change

WHO Regional Offices

WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO)

WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO)

WHO Regional Office for Europe (EURO)

WHO Regional Office for the Americas/Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)

WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia (SEARO) 

WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific (WPRO)