Effect of Deforestation on Mozambique Discussed at United Nations Event

Sigrid Hahn, MD, Associate Director of Global Health Center, speaks about Mount Sinai’s work at Gorongosa National Park in a UN-sponsored panel discussion.

New York, NY
 – May 4, 2010 /Press Release/  –– 

Sigrid Hahn, MD, Associate Director of the Global Health Center at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, discussed how deforestation in Mozambique leads to water and food insecurity for rural communities as part of a United Nations (UN)-sponsored event celebrating the International Year of Biodiversity. The event took place Friday, April 30 at 6:00 PM, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

In collaboration with the UN Development Programme and the UN Environment Programme, Dr. Hahn participated in a panel to discuss the Global Health Center’s work researching the links between environmental degradation and poor health in African children. The Global Health Center is one of several public health partners at Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique who are working to strengthen community-based health programs, especially as they relate to maternal and child health issues, family planning and birth spacing.

“Children who reside in the buffer zone around Gorongosa National Park are faced with severe health problems, including HIV/AIDS, malaria, and pneumonia,” said Dr. Hahn. “Malnutrition is widespread, and is the underlying cause for up to half of childhood deaths in the area. Our team has worked with the community to identify their major health and environmental concerns, and we look forward to continuing to partner with community members to facilitate their involvement in solutions to these issues.”

The Global Health Center at Mount Sinai has worked for two years with the Carr Foundation, a U.S. non-profit organization dedicated to addressing environmental, health, and well-being issues at Gorongosa National Park. The park had supported some of the densest, most diverse population of wildlife in Africa, but due to civil war, the ecosystems in the park were strained. During the war, in addition to the massive human death toll, the park was essentially cleared of animals, which were hunted for food or poached and sold to fund the war. As a result, the large mammal population was reduced by 95 percent.

In addition, Mount Gorongosa, which is the watershed for the park and outside formal park boundaries, experienced a breakdown of traditional barriers against deforestation on the mountain. Now, because of the displacement of people onto the mountain during the war, people live on the mountain and are cutting trees to clear space for agriculture and sale of timber.

The Carr Foundation has teamed with the Government of Mozambique to protect and restore the ecosystem of Gorongosa National Park, while also working with partners like Mount Sinai to improve the health and livelihood of the surrounding human population. Together, they are working to link initiatives for the reforestation and agriculture programs with peer-to-peer and community health worker outreach programs.

The event was moderated by Charles McNeill, Senior Policy Advisor, the United Nations Development Programme. Other speakers at the event included:

  • Felicity Arengo, PhD, Associate Director, Center for Biodiversity and Conversation, American Museum of Natural History
  • H.E. Mr. Norihiro Okuda, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
  • Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biodiversity
  • Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH, Faculty Member, Center for Health and the Global Environment and Instructor in Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
  • Montira J. Pongsiri, PhD, MPH, Environmental Scientist, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Erika Vohman, Director, The Equilibrium Fund
  • Juanita Castaño, Director, New York Office, United Nations Environment Program

About The Mount Sinai Global Health Center

The Global Health Center at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine is dedicated to improving the health of the underserved around the globe by training tomorrow’s global health leaders. Through partnerships with non-governmental organizations, hospitals and medical schools, the Global Health Center offers training and mentorship to students and physicians, emphasizing the importance of well-designed research, evidence-based practice, and interventions that empower communities to produce lasting, positive change. For more information, please visit www.mssm-ghc.org.

About The Mount Sinai Medical Center

The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses both The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Established in 1968, Mount Sinai School of Medicine is one of few medical schools embedded in a hospital in the United States. It has more than 3,400 faculty in 32 departments and 15 institutes, and ranks among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institute of Health funding and by U.S. News & World Report.  The school received the 2009 Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Service from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The Mount Sinai Hospital, founded in 1852, is a 1,171-bed tertiary- and quaternary-care teaching facility and one of the nation’s oldest, largest and most-respected voluntary hospitals.  In 2009, U.S. News & World Report ranked The Mount Sinai Hospital among the nation’s top 20 hospitals based on reputation, patient safety, and other patient-care factors.  Nearly 60,000 people were treated at Mount Sinai as inpatients last year, and approximately 530,000 outpatient visits took place.

For more information, visit www.mountsinai.org