UNIDO and public health

The onset of the global fuel-food-financial crises risks unhinging the fragile economic and industrial progress made in developing countries, and pushing millions of people below the poverty line.
This trend has the potential not only to negate development successes in reducing hunger and malnutrition, but also to jeopardize short and medium term progress and investment into primary health infrastructures.
The complexity of the human crisis that the world faces in its efforts to achieve international development goals, is even more accentuated when the potential impact of climate change is added to the scenario.
The repercussions of these trends on health and livelihoods, particularly in developing countries, should not be underestimated and it is clear that sustained growth and income creation, both at the individual and collective level, is one of the cornerstones of a functioning public health system.
Since the public healthcare system strongly depends on a functioning economy, UNIDO focuses on two distinct fields. Firstly, the industrial risks that impact public health – be it directly through industrial emissions and waste or contact with hazardous and toxic materials at the workplace or in (agro-) industrial products, or indirectly through industry-related environmental effects and man-made disasters. Secondly, the industrial goods and skills required for public health systems, such as affordable pharmaceuticals, industrial products for medical use, energy supplies, and proper management and engineering skills.
While the latter is addressed through sector-specific private sector development programmes, particularly in the field of manufacturing industries and sustainable energy supply, industrial risks are tackled through dedicated industrial policies and programmes that reduce hazardous emissions, toxic waste and environmental effects.
For the last fifteen years, UNIDO has contributed to the efforts of the international community to protect the ozone layer and so far 63 countries have been assisted by the Organization in reducing the production and consumption of ozone depleting substance by more than 30 per cent. This is an important step towards the recovery of the ozone layer and the elimination of the harmful impacts of UVB radiation on both human health and the environment.
Preserving the environment
Through a global network, currently covering 40 developing and transition countries, the UNIDO cleaner production programme minimizes the negative impact of industries on the environment and public health. In the case of clean drinking water, the consumption of high-quality water resources is reduced to a minimum through maximized efficiency in water usage and industrial recycling. Water discharges are lessened in both quantity and level of hazard. The programme aims to reduce health risks from industrial emissions and from direct contact with toxic substances at the workplace.
In many developing countries, there is an urgent need to address the risk to public health resulting from local exposure to persistent organic pollutants – either through direct contact or through contaminated water and food. UNIDO helps to reduce and eliminate the production, use and release of persistent organic pollutant chemicals, and assists developing and transition economy countries in preparing national implementation plans and enabling activities under the framework of the Stockholm Convention.
Cancer-causing dioxins and furans are toxic chemicals that are found in very small amounts in the environment, but are also present in some foods are released during industrial, toxic and medical waste incineration processes. They are extremely stable in the environment and accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals and humans. Based on an extensive barrier analysis of medical waste management, treatment and disposal in China, UNIDO demonstrates and replicates the best available techniques and best environmental practices in medical waste management to reduce dioxins and furans releases during the incineration process. The Organization promotes a locally affordable and commercially available supply of technologies and equipment needed and the commercialization of domestically constructed medical waste treatment and disposal facilities.
Small-scale industrial gold mining represents the largest intentional use of mercury, one of the most toxic metals, and the second largest anthropogenic emission source. For many years, UNIDO has been implementing projects aimed at eliminating the releases of mercury by small gold mines as well as its reduction. Through awareness-raising campaigns and the introduction of cleaner technologies, UNIDO was able to reduce mercury emissions into various international water bodies. In the past ten years, UNIDO has also addressed the issue of arsenic in ground water used for drinking purposes, and has helped introduce an innovative filtering technique to provide community centres with arsenic-free water.
Climate change will affect health and livelihoods on our planet and it will be the most vulnerable who will suffer most. This is why UNIDO works in tandem with other UN organizations and relevant institutions to reduce the risks related to climate change, particularly through mitigation programmes in industry.
Promoting responsible business practices in industry
Each year, more than two million people die globally as a result of work-related accidents and diseases. It is estimated there are 270 million occupational accidents and 160 million cases of occupational disease. The safety of work varies between countries, economic sectors and social groups. In developing countries, especially among small and medium enterprises, there are large numbers of people engaged in hazardous activities or in contact with toxic substances. The total cost of such accidents and ill health is estimated at approximately 4% of the world’s GDP. This is why occupational health and safety are key target areas of UNIDO’s approach to corporate social responsibility. A UNIDO programme for small and medium enterprises promotes responsible business practices and helps develop a worldwide network of trained and qualified experts.
More generic drugs for developing countries
In order to increase the availability of essential generic medicines in developing countries, UNIDO promotes the local manufacturing of high-quality medicines at competitive prices. Capacity-building and promotional activities at the enterprise, institutional and policy levels are targeted especially at products used to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
Improving sanitary product standards
The implementation of international sanitary and phytosanitary standards in agro-industrial products improves the safety of internationally and domestically traded food products and directly contributes to reducing the risk of food-borne deceases. UNIDO works to unleash the potential of the productive sectors of the developing countries, including the agro-manufacturing industries, and to upgrade product and production quality, safety and hygiene. It assists enterprises in complying with internationally agreed industrial standards and regulations, helps strengthen national capacity, helps upgrade product and production quality and provides technical advice on product trading.