Health and environment

The effects on health are disastrous © Lam Duc Hien

Health and environment

A holistic approach to health and its determinants should take environmental issues into account, the environment being a factor of health and social inequalities. When the causes of harmful living and working environment are known, the actions of Doctors of the World –Médecins du Monde (MdM) focus on reducing their health effects at a local level, i.e. within a limited geographical area. The pour-eux targeted by MdM’s actions are those traditionally supported by our organisation: the victims of poverty, stigmatisation or discrimination.

Mitigating environmental effects on health

MdM takes a three-pronged approach to reducing the impact of the environment on health:

 

Polluted living environments

Through the support we provide to vulnerable population groups, we are able to gain knowledge about their living conditions. This knowledge, combined with the data we collect throughout our missions, enables us to identify harmful environments. We then work with pour-eux living and working in the most harmful environments to help them lessen the impact on their health. We also carry out advocacy actions aimed at reducing insalubrity, promoting access to safe water and prohibiting the causes of toxicity.

 

 

In France, MdM works with local authorities to improve hygiene conditions in slums like this one in Marseilles. ©Olivier Papegnies
In France, MdM works with local authorities to improve hygiene conditions in slums like this one in Marseilles. ©Olivier Papegnies

Activities involving the risk of toxic exposure  

Our purpose is to support people whose income-generating activities expose them to toxic substances harmful to their health. By adopting a risk reduction approach, we wish to build people’s capacities to protect themselves and reduce their exposure to toxic substances. We do so without trying to dissuade them from carrying out activities on which their livelihoods depend. At a political level, we will carry out a relevant advocacy action to achieve a reduction in the toxicity of substances used, without worsening the economic situation of these workers by causing an increase in the price of these substances, for example. We will also seek to prevent the introduction of regulations that would prohibit them from working.

 

 

Since 2012, Médecins du Monde has been involved in recycling communities in 4 poor urban areas of Manila © Lam Duc Hien
Since 2012, Médecins du Monde has been involved in recycling communities in 4 poor urban areas of Manila © Lam Duc Hien

Ensuring the sustainability of our actions

In areas where recurrent environmental risks  are identified, we systematically adopt a disaster risk reduction (DRR) approach on our projects right from the design stage, working with the communities and authorities outside of crisis periods. The aim is to ensure the sustainability of actions for coping with foreseeable environmental hazards (cyclones, flooding, etc.).

Objectives

General objective

To empower people living or working in harmful environments to lessen the impact of these environments on their own health and that of their families.

Specific objectives

● To ensure that people who carry out or suffer the consequences of polluting activities are able to lessen the impact of these activities on their own health and that of their families;

● To empower people living in inappropriate or harmful conditions in polluted areas to lessen the impact of this environment on their own health and that of their family, especially in dense urban areas.

● Through our advocacy, to help restrict the sources of pollution in living and working environments (including through the decontamination of polluted sites by major polluters) and help people obtain occupational exposure status and recognition.

● To promote advocacy on health-risk prevention and the improvement of living environments, especially in dense urban areas.

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