Department of Sustainable Development


Ministers of


Address Urgent Public Health-Environmental degradation links

 JUNE 14, 2005, Washington/ Buenos Aires Dr. Ginés González García, Minister of Health and Environment of Argentina will host his health and environmental colleagues from the 34 countries of the Americas, at a meeting in Mar del Plata on June 16-17.

The ministerial and senior officials meeting will review the state of health and environment linkages in the hemisphere, and adopt a formal plan of work in order to improve coordination between human health and environmental officials within countries, as well as cement cooperation at the international level between countries. 

The meeting will be attended by ministers and senior representatives from all countries of the Inter-American system, as well as the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Dr. Klaus Töpfer, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. LEE Jong-wook, and the Director of the Pan-American Health Organization, Dr. Mirta Roses Periago, and the Director of the Office for Sustainable Development and Environment of the Organization of American States, Dr. Scott Vaughan.  In addition, senior officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and officials from guest countries, such as Japan’s Senior Vice Minister of Environment, Hiroshi Takano, will also be attending this meeting    A final list of participating ministers and senior health and environment officials will be available on-line at:


Health and Environment ministers, or representative, from the 34 countries of the Americas.


Special Meeting of Health and Environment Ministers of the Americas


Mar del Plata, Argentina


16-17 June 2005


For more information, please contact Edmundo Ferretti, Press Coordinator ( at 011 54 9 11 4407-3352 or 011 54 223 451-9081/86.  You can also contact Scott Vaughan, Director of the OAS Department of Sustainable Development ( at 202-458-6248 and/or James Kiernan ( at 202-458-6848. Agenda

The objective of the ministerial meeting is to adopt a formal plan of action to address the growing impacts of environmental-health linkages.   Accelerating rates of environmental degradation – including increased rates and differing sources of pollution, the long-term health impacts of climate change, and the increase of pesticides and toxic chemicals and wastes – pose new management challenges which require coordinated action at the national as well as regional levels.

The ministerial meeting will adopt a plan of action in three areas:

      Children’s environmental health,

      integrated water resources and solid waste management, and

      the sound management of chemicals.   

 Expected outcomes of the Meeting of Health and Environment Ministers of the Americas (HEMA) include:

Take stock of the trajectory of environmental health conditions on the hemisphere;  

Adopt HEMA Declaration and Action Plan with fixed priority actions for the immediate future and a proposal for Heads of State to be raised at the Summit of the Americas.

Identify practical ways in which the adopted plan supports the Millennium Development Goals.


The meeting will be hosted by the Minister of Health and Environment of Argentina, Dr. Ginés González García, and will be attended by ministers and/or senior level officials for the 34 countries of the Americas.  The initiative and its follow-up implementation is supported by three international organizations, the OAS’ Department of Sustainable Development (water-related issues), the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO - children’s environmental health), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP -chemicals.)


The Heads of State and Government met at the Third Summit of the Americas (Québec, 2001), and authorized a joint meeting of the health and environment authorities, held in Ottawa in March, 2002. This initiative is acknowledged in the Declaration of Nuevo León at the Special Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Americas (2004): “We believe that ensuring environmental health for our people is an investment for long-term well-being and prosperity. We are encouraged by the new alliance between our Ministers of Health and Environment in the Americas and we instruct them to develop a cooperation agenda to prevent and minimize the negative impacts to the environment and human health.”

Under this mandate, between June 16 and 17, the state of affairs concerning the key health and environmental issues identified by the ministers in 2002 will be reviewed; focus will be made on the specific goals, objectives and commitments in priority areas.  These ministerial goals will be related to the Millennium Development Goals, in order to identify how to contribute to the achievement of these Goals through health and environmental integrated policies.


Integrated water resources and solid waste management

In Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), at least 300 million people are sick or threatened by water borne diseases (cholera, typhoid fever, diarrheal diseases).

More than 40% of the rural population in the LAC region still lack adequate sanitation.

Development of water supply in the region has been much slower than expected and even declined in several countries.

The economic costs of environmental health are staggering, increasing and causing measurable economic and developmental costs.  For example, an increase in water and sanitation infrastructure and services by $11 billion per year above current expenditures would result directly in economic benefits in excess of $84 billion per annum.  The main economic benefit identified is a global decline in diarrheal disease by 10 percent.

Solid waste produced per capita has doubled over the past 30 years in the LAC region.

Almost all countries in the LAC region lack physical infrastructure to control solid waste.

 Sound management of chemicals

Millions of people are significantly exposed to pesticides every day, either directly in farm and garden use or in residues in water, air and food.

From 1990 to 2002 there was an increase of 62% of total chemical fertilizer consumption in the Americas.

As much as 85 to 90 percent of pesticides applied to agriculture never reach their targets, but instead disperse into the air, soil and water, and into the bodies of people.

In Latin America pesticide use has almost tripled in the last 20 years.

Children’s environmental health

Every year almost 11 million children in all developing countries die before the age of five, most from causes that are readily preventable in developed countries, including acute respiratory infections (19%), diarrhea (17%), and malaria (8%), all related to environmental conditions.

Every year 2.2 million children in the world under age five die from diarrhea – closely linked to inadequate access to safe water and sanitation.

Children are particularly susceptible to the effects of pesticides on their immune systems (birth defects, cancer and tumors, neurodevelopmental retardation, endocrine problems).


Organization of American States - 1889 F St. N.W. - Washington, D.C. 20006, U.S.A. - (202) 458-3000

© 2006 Department of Sustainable Development - Organization of American States. All Rights Reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Notice
This page was last updated on Thursday December 14, 2006.