CAPPA – Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa

Our Health, Our Right

Over 70 participants joined Corporate Accountability & Public Participation Africa’s (CAPPA) webinar on Monday, April 8, to commemorate World Health Day 2024. The webinar featured presentations from facilitators who provided insights on the intersectionality of public health with climate change, food policies, gender justice, water justice, and tobacco control.

In his welcome address, Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director of CAPPA, explained that human well-being is strongly tied to critical determinants such as water availability, the advancement of national food policies promoting food justice, and the adoption of healthier diets, among other factors. Furthermore, he emphasised the importance of pro-people governance interventions and decisions in safeguarding public health.

The first presentation, led by Martins Olamide, CAPPA’s Programme Manager, dwelt on Climate Change and Health: Connecting the Dots, Shaping Our Decisions. Olamide discussed the relationship between climate change and public health, emphasizing the need for effective environmental policies. He described how poor implementation and enforcement of , particularly in regulating activities like oil exploration, promotes corporate impunity, which manifests in oil spillages and environmental degradation that adversely impact human health. He called for increased government action in enforcing environmental protection programmes.

The second presentation, delivered by Joy Amafah, In-Country Coordinator of the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), focused on Reinforcing Nigerians’ Right to Healthy Food. Amafah defined healthy food policies as government measures, rules, and strategies aimed at safeguarding public health. She lamented the prevalence of ultra-processed foods in Nigeria’s food environment, highlighting the associated health risks. Additionally, she addressed the concerning trend of associating ultra-processed foods with high social status and educated individuals on the consequences of consuming such unhealthy diets. Among other things, ultra-processed foods often lack essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fibre, leading to nutritional deficiencies. They are also typically high in calories, unhealthy fats, sugars, and salt, which contribute to weight gain and increase the risk of obesity. Her session concluded with recommendations for food regulators in Nigeria to establish salt targets for industrial food products and increase the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages to promote healthier consumption choices.

Reflecting on the day, Barrister Michael Olaniyan, a legal practitioner, public health advocate, and dedicated educator, led the third session, focusing on Tobacco’s Threat to Humanity and Human Rights. According to him, tobacco consumption not only jeopardizes health but also infringes upon human rights. The cultivation of tobacco often results in deforestation as vast areas of land are cleared to accommodate tobacco farms. Furthermore, the extensive use of pesticides and chemicals in tobacco farming contaminates soil, water, and air, thereby posing significant risks to the health of local communities and violating their rights to healthy environments. Most alarmingly, tobacco consumption serves as a catalyst for lethal health conditions and diseases that devastate human lives. In commemoration of the 2024 World Health Day, Michael urged the Nigerian government and the public to unite in solidarity against the pervasive threat of tobacco consumption.

In her presentation, Sefa Ikpa, CAPPA’s Project Officer, discussed Enhancing Health Equity Through Improved Water Access. Highlighting water as a critical element for human survival, she emphasised the need for state authorities to embrace sustainable and democratic solutions to address water security, particularly for the benefit of marginalized communities and low-income neighbourhoods often deprived of basic amenities due to their informality and discriminatory social norms. According to her, addressing underlying socio-economic determinants exacerbating the lack of access to safe and clean water, such as poverty and insecurity, is imperative for the government. She emphasized that only through democratic and public management of water utilities and supply can access be guaranteed for all.

The concluding presentation of the day, delivered by Zikora Ibeh, CAPPA’s Policy and Research Officer, centered on Effective Health Policies for Gender Justice. The discussion highlighted the crucial role of designing and implementing gender-sensitive health policies to enhance health outcomes across diverse gender groups in society. Zikora emphasised that effective health policies should embody principles of gender justice, tailored to address the distinct health needs of different genders. By prioritising policies that foster inclusivity and equity, society can undergo a profound transformation towards enhancing gendered experiences and relationships, she concluded.

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