Human health and environmental protection go hand in hand.
For more than twenty years, CI has been fighting to protect animal and plant species, vibrant landscapes, and healthy ecosystems.
A vital part of that work has always been ensuring that the people who live in, and near, these landscapes and marine regions have enough of their basic needs – abundant food, clean water, fresh air – to thrive.
In the last few years, working with numerous partners and with support from USAID’s Population Environment project, CI’s direct engagement in finding environmental solutions to human health needs has grown significantly.
Without diverse forested watersheds, the water that millions depend on daily loses its natural filtering system. Large rural families – many without sufficient education or the finances to travel far for effective health care – must often search tirelessly for firewood, water and food.
LEARN MORE: If humans can't get what they need to survive, conservation can't succeed.
In simple terms, nature is vital for people’s long-term health.
Clean Water in Madagascar
Rarely is that connection more obvious than in the relationship between human health and fresh water. Fresh water must be readily available, clean and suitable for agriculture, washing, and – perhaps most importantly– human consumption.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 94 percent of the nearly two million annual diarrheal deaths can be attributed to such factors as unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation.
So between 2005 and 2007, CI and partners like the Malagasy Teknisiana Ho Andy Sy Tean’I Zahamena Sy Ny Ala Atsinana and Action Sante Organization Secours helped families in Madagascar construct more than 2,900 latrines and 2,800 waste pits in more than 30 rural communities.
IN-DEPTH: Discover CI's work to promote conservation in Madagascar through local communities.
The latrines were simple – built to provide basic services without depending on materials that would be drawn from the forest. Rather, in a true example of “reduce, reuse, recycle,” the latrines were built using resources the villagers already had available.
An outreach and education program that linked environmental protection and human health to sanitation and waste disposal complemented these efforts, as did traditional reforestation projects which can help reinstate watershed services such as water purification through natural filtration systems: replanting a wide variety of trees to restore degraded forests and providing fruit trees to supplement local diets.
Once the new latrines were in place and fortified by education, personal hygiene behaviors improved as well – reducing the potential spread of water borne disease.
Community Health in the Philippines
Because large, poor families in rural places often struggle for the basics of survival, their localized impact on nature can be significant.
In the forests of northern Philippines, CI worked with local health and development partners to increase awareness of the importance of reproductive health and family planning while promoting conservation of the country’s biologically diverse forests.
Working with baranguay health authorities and on-the-ground outreach workers, CI and partners quickly confronted the challenge of providing these services to remote upland communities where there is a lack of trained health workers and limited municipal resources.
EXPLORE: Learn about CI's work with the communities of the Philippines.
To achieve a sustainable system for supplying these services in the remote, upland, largely indigenous Agta communities, CI Philippines facilitated workshops with local ministry of health representatives, midwives, baranguay health workers and Barangay Council representatives.
That work – increasing awareness among, and health services for, remote communities – continues to this day.
In the coming months, CI will be announcing further activities and initiatives as we continue to investigate the links between healthy forests, rivers, oceans, and human health. We can save ourselves and our environment. It is, in fact our only chance.
READ MORE: Human health & the environment.