Washington, D.C.—Government officials from Egypt, Germany, Nigeria and Norway joined top musicians from around the world to commit to improving people’s health by ending pollution. Pollution contributes to the preventable deaths of an estimated 9 million people each year—most of them in developing countries. An estimated 7 million people were killed by diseases related to indoor and outdoor air pollution alone in 2012 according to the World Health Organization.
“We know what needs to be done. The technology exists. And any action we take will have almost immediate effect. What are we waiting for? Get rid of the smoke and people survive. It is as simple as that,” said Børge Brende, Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs at the Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day event on the U.S. National Mall, in Washington D.C. on Saturday April 18.
Norway, which announced it would invest $12 million over a period of four years for air pollution reduction in developing countries, was the first of several countries to invest in the Pollution Management and Environmental Health (PMEH) program, a new multi-donor Trust Fund administered by the World Bank. The program, with an initial total allocation of around $45 million, will focus primarily on air quality management in five major urban areas in China, Egypt, India, Nigeria and South Africa. As such, it could contribute to improved environmental health conditions for an estimated 150 million people in those cities over the next five years. PMEH will also support other countries and cities of Sub-Saharan Africa, and aim to reduce land and water pollution.
Addressing hundreds of thousands of people in the crowd and online, Nigeria’s Federal Minister of Environment Laurentia Mallam pledged to improve environmental health in her country by 50 percent by 2020. “Nigerian citizens deserve air that is clean, water that is drinkable, and land that is safe from contamination,” she said.
Appearing on stage with Nigeria were representatives from Egypt, Germany and the World Bank, as well as musicians from China and the United States who performed an original score to a multimedia presentation dedicated to ending pollution for healthy lives. “Today’s event confirms that we are not alone in this fight,” said Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation Dr. Naglaa El-Ahwany. “We have a huge opportunity to show leadership and find solutions that match the scale of the problem.” Like Lagos, Egypt’s capital Cairo is one of Africa’s largest cities and suffers serious air quality health effects.
Renowned pianist Chen Sa prefaced the pollution multimedia piece by urging the audience to take action: “Last year our Chinese Premier Minister declared a War on Pollution,” she said. “Now we, as musicians and citizens from around the world, have come together to make a plea: We must end pollution globally.”
“We cannot separate the health of the planet and human health,” said Jochen Flasbarth, Germany’s State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, also speaking at the event. “By protecting the environment and our natural resources, we will save lives.”
Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day was organized by the Earth Day Network and Global Poverty Project and marked the 45th year anniversary of the founding of Earth Day. The event aimed to educate and energize people to support development and environmental issues and served as a platform for the launch of the PMEH program.