Second Lady calls on WHO to improve access to clean energy

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Second Lady Samira Bawumia during the virtual meeting

The Second Lady, Samira Bawumia, who is also a Health and Energy Champion for the Global Health and Energy Platform of Action (HEPA), has called on stakeholders to increase engagements and strengthen partnerships in order to improve access to clean energy around the world.

She made this call on Wednesday at the high-level Health and Energy Coalition’s first virtual meeting, convened by the World Health Organization’s Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus.

The coalition is made up of leaders from selected international organizations, high-level health and energy champions as well as government leaders supporting HEPA, which was launched by the WHO in May 2019 to work towards achieving SDGs 3 and 7 on health and energy, with a focus on cleaning cooking.

Clean cooking

In her remarks, Mrs Bawumia, who also doubles as a Global Ambassador for the Clean Cooking Alliance, bemoaned the over-emphasis on electricity access as a solution to poor energy access, to the detriment of non-electricity household energy access.

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“Clean Cooking represents a significant part of the energy access conversation. However, clean cooking has not been given the necessary attention and investments despite its enormous effect across the Sustainable Development Agenda,” Mrs Bawumia said.

She revealed that, “while 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity, more than double that number-about three (3) billion people still rely on biomass for cooking globally, there is evidence of a correlation between exposure to air pollution caused by cooking with biomass and increased blood pressure in pregnant women, lower birth weight of infants and increased incidence of childhood pneumonia.”

Mrs Bawumia argued that, by scaling up clean cooking, which delivers on several of the United Nations SDGs, lives would be saved, health of women and children improved, the environment protected and a cleaner, better and safer world secured.

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In her closing remarks, the Second Lady called for a multi-sectorial collaboration and renewed technical and political cooperation among stakeholders.

WHO boss

The Director General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, presented a strategy road map developed by the WHO to define priority actions. They include dramatically increasing public and private investments in electrifying healthcare facilities and in clean cooking; providing the necessary human and financial resources to design and implement energy plans and sustainable deliberate models tailored to the needs of the health sector and households; and develop tailored policies and financing schemes to unlock the potentials of clean and sustainable energy solutions and address health sector needs.

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The meeting, which had representatives of the Energy and Health Ministers from selected countries, saw Ghana’s Minister of Energy, Dr Matthew Opoku-Prempeh, take his turn to outline Government of Ghana’s interventions towards the realisation of UN SDGs 3 and 7. These included the provision of access to solar energy for Community Health Planning and Services (CHPS) compounds, distribution of 100,000 solar lanterns to communities which are off the national electricity grid, distribution of 120,000 clean cook stoves, among others.

The meeting had high-level participation from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR), the World Bank Group, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), The Rockefeller Foundation, Amref Health Africa and several countries across the world.

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