Governments should enhance protection of vital ecosystems in order to minimize spread of lethal pathogens to the human population, the UN Environment Programme said in a report.
According to the report titled “Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission,” protecting the natural world is key to averting an eruption of outbreaks that might disrupt livelihoods.
“Pandemics are devastating to our lives and our economies, and as we have seen over the past months, it is the poorest and the most vulnerable who suffer the most,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP executive director.
“To prevent future outbreaks, we must become much more deliberate about protecting our natural environment,” Andersen added.
The new report that sheds light on the growing link between environmental degradation and spread of diseases was a joint effort between the UNEP and Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).
The report says that unsustainable exploitation of land, forests and wildlife resources combined with climatic stresses, was behind the growing burden of zoonotic diseases globally.
The report, whose launch coincided with World Zoonoses Day, says that rising demand for animal protein and agricultural intensification has also contributed to the faster spread of disease-causing pathogens.
It recommends greater investments in research, community-based awareness campaigns, enhanced surveillance and sustainable land-use practices in order to minimize the risk of ailments that are linked to the encroachment of wildlife habitats.
The report singles out African countries for demonstrating capacity to respond to zoonotic diseases amid a spike linked to greater interaction between communities and wildlife.
Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI, said that African states can leverage experience in combating Ebola to promote sustainable environmental management and avert future pandemics