Human development has largely come at the expense of nature — undermining ecosystems, fragmenting habitats, reducing biodiversity, and increasing our exposure and vulnerability to diseases. As we push deeper into tropical forests, and convert more land to agriculture and human settlements, the rate at which people encounter new pathogens that may trigger the next public health, social and economic crisis, is likely to increase. Pandemics such as COVID-19 are just one of a growing number of health challenges that humanity is facing as a result of our often one-sided relationship with nature.

The World Wide Fund for Nature and the Smithsonian Institute collaborated on a report which examines the One Health Sphere in Africa. Health impacts are an increasingly apparent outcome from the severe and wide-ranging impacts that environmental degradation has on humans and animals. This was highlighted in 2020 by the concurrent emergence of the global COVID-19 pandemic, two Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nigeria’s most severe Lassa fever outbreak on record. One Health has emerged as a framework for identifying, assessing, and strengthening the links between the health of humans and animals, and the natural and anthropological systems from which health outcomes arise.

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© James Hassell

This report aims to:

  1. Inform on how health outcomes emerge from human interactions with the natural world.
  2. Identify how efforts to preserve the environment and sustainably manage natural resources can have an impact on human and animal health.
  3. Highlight the limitations that weak evidence, lack of metrics, and educational gaps pose to achieving desired health outcomes for humans and animals through the sustainable management of ecosystems.