NEW YORK - September 20, 2013 - EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit organization that focuses on local conservation and global health issues, announced the award of a three-year, $2 million award to address land use alteration as a significant driver of both disease emergence and climate change in Asia. The funding for the new program was awarded by U.S. Agency for International Development, Regional Development Mission for Asia (RDMA).
Over 60 percent of emerging infectious diseases over the past six decades--from SARS to pandemic H1N1 and HIV--have originated in animals, with nearly half linked to land use change, agricultural intensification, or changes in food production. Land alterations accelerate the pace and diversity of human and animal contact, enabling pathogens to spill over from animal populations, a first spark in the chain of events that ignite global pandemics. Simultaneously, deforestation and forest degradation resulting from land alterations account for between 14 to 17 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a rough equivalent to the entire global transportation sector. The key to reducing the threat from diseases of pandemic potential and slowing climate change is a more comprehensive understanding of how functional ecosystems mitigate disease emergence and enhance carbon storage.
In partnership with the Sabah Wildlife Department and University of Malaysia Sabah, EcoHealth Alliance will apply data from the Kinabatangan basin in Sabah, Malaysia to value the infectious disease regulatory role of ecosystems. By capturing value from disease avoidance as a significant component of total ecosystem services valuations, the work is expected to yield actionable, economically sound strategies to promote reduced impact land use policy. "This project will set the agenda for how we can bring together international development, health and environmental programs under one umbrella. By building a partnership with government and the private sector, we will develop solutions that have real traction to reduce carbon emissions, promote a healthier planet, and prevent extinction, while at the same time building sustainable economic growth," commented, Dr. Peter Daszak, President of EcoHealth Alliance, and Chief-of-Party for the IDEEAL program.
The project will launch a Sabah-based Center for Development and Health, serving as a clearinghouse for multi-disciplinary applied research, training, and advocacy. The center will serve a key function in building alliances and engaging industry in designing solutions to these common challenges by hosting regular roundtables that convene stakeholders from across the Malaysian government, civil society, and the private sector. "There is increasing evidence that intact ecosystems are better able to reduce risk of infectious disease spillover events, a function that's an important component of ecosystem services," said Datuk Dr. Laurentius Ambu, Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department. "By placing economic value on this ecosystem service, the project will help strengthen appreciation for maintaining healthy ecosystems, reducing infectious disease spillover events, and will provide the tools needed to guide sustainable land use policies."
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About EcoHealth Alliance
Building on over 40 years of groundbreaking science, EcoHealth Alliance is a global, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and safeguarding human health from the emergence of disease. The organization develops ways to combat the effects of damaged ecosystems on human and wildlife health. Using environmental and health data covering the past 60 years, EcoHealth Alliance scientists created the first-ever, global disease hotspots map that identified at-risk regions, to help predict and prevent the next pandemic crisis. That work is the foundation of EcoHealth Alliance's rigorous, science-based approach, focused at the intersection of the environment, health, and capacity building. Working in the U.S. and more than 20 countries worldwide, EcoHealth Alliance's strength is founded on innovations in research, training, global partnerships, and policy initiatives. For more information, please visit http://www.