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Zoonotic Diseases: What we need to do next

06 July 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic has caused devastating human, social, and economic distress and reminded us that our health is inextricably linked to the health of our ecosystems and food systems.

COVID-19 is just one of a range of diseases to have made the jump from wildlife to people in recent years. 75% of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic - that is, transmitted to people from other animals.

Major drivers of biodiversity loss can contribute to the emergence and spread of zoonoses, from unsustainable land use practices such as deforestation, overgrazing and water abstraction, to the direct exploitation of nature, including through unsustainable or illegal wildlife trade.

These drivers disrupt the balance of nature and can raise the risk of zoonotic disease transmission.  Reducing this risk for the future must now be a key consideration across for the health and environment communities.

The UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) recently published a response to the COVID-19 pandemic: we will work to understand and address the drivers of zoonotic disease emergence and seek transformational change in the relationship between people and nature to help reduce future risk of zoonotic disease emergence.

On World Zoonoses Day, here are some of the specific steps we will take to contribute to efforts to guard against the risk of future zoonotic disease pandemics:

Understanding and responding to risk of disease emergence

Addressing environmental challenges at national and international levels

Rebuilding resilient infrastructure

Adopting the ‘One Health’ approach

Supporting the development and delivery of global environmental agreements

Read more about UNEP-WCMC plan of work in response to the COVID-19 outbreak here.