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11 July 2007 | Printer friendly

Children’s Environment and Health Awards announced in Vienna

The winners of the Pan-European Children’s Environment and Health Awards were announced at the Intergovernmental Midterm Review (IMR) conference in Vienna on 13 June.

Financially supported by the Government of Austria and coordinated by the Health & Environment Alliance, Eco-Forum, Women in Europe for a Common Future and ISDE Austria, the competition was launched in March with the aim to highlight some of the excellent projects that are helping to reduce the harm to children from environmental hazards.

The contest was very successful with over 100 applications from 32 countries in the WHO European Region. The projects were evaluated by a jury consisting of international experts from the health and environment sectors.

The overall winner in each category, who have won cash prizes, are as follows:

Category 1: Water and Sanitation

Femei pentru un Viitor Curat (Women for a Clean Future) with the project "Community acts to make drinking water safe".

In Romania, seven million people lack access to safe drinking water. Women for a Clean Future have completed two water and sanitation projects in the village of Garla Mare, where human waste and pesticide concentrations in water are dangerously high. One of the results of nitrate pollution of drinking water is methaemoglobinaemia, or "blue baby" disease, which turns babies’ and children’s skin a bluish colour.

An “ecosan” toilet and “waterless urinals” were installed to help reduce water pollution from human excrement. Water filters were fitted in schools and community cleaning of some wells was organised. Villagers were also encouraged to test the well water for safety and make known the results.

Category 2: Protection from injuries

Climate Alliance Austria with the project "Mobility managed for children’s health".

Parents are worried about children walking or cycling to school so they take them in the car. This adds to the traffic on the roads thus causing a vicious cycle. Climate Alliance Austria, working within the Climate Change Initiative of the Austrian Environment Ministry, wants to break this downward spiral for the benefit of children and climate protection.

The project is providing a basic package of information and teaching materials for 500 interested schools or teachers in Austria. Additionally, fifty schools are benefiting from a more intensive programme. Over the course of a year, a mobility manager helps the children, teachers and parents find local solutions to their problems. This may be achieved via road safety measures or innovative approaches such as roundtables with children, community members and transport company staff.

Category 3: Improving air quality

The Paediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU), Murcia with the project "Doctors who stop smoking before it starts".

Spain has one of the highest rates of tobacco prevalence in Europe. In Murcia and Valencia, well over a third of 14 to 18 year olds say they have smoked tobacco during the past month. The Paediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU) in Murcia and Valencia decided to try and reduce exposure to tobacco smoke by targeting the prevention of smoking initiation in schools.

The project provides audiovisual materials on the tobacco epidemic, the harmful effects of smoking, and information on how to give up smoking. The project involves questionnaires and visits from parents to the San Jorge school in Murcia and the San JosÚ Jesuitas school in Valencia to ensure that the messages reach the students’ homes.

Category 4: Protection from hazardous chemicals

West-Transdanubian Regional Institute of National Public Health, Hungary with the project "Public health leaders promote “sun-safe”

The Western-Transdanubian Regional Institute of National Public Health and Medical Officers’ Service in Hungary joined a skin cancer prevention programme coordinated in Rome to teach children “sun-safe behaviour”.

During 2004, more than 2,000 Hungarian children received information from the programme. First, questionnaires were distributed in 20 primary schools in three cities. The results were analysed with the help of the Italian institute. Each participant was sent his or her result in a letter just before the summer holidays. The key messages included that those with a sensitive skin complexion are most vulnerable, and that sunburn during childhood doubles the risk of developing malignant melanoma later in life.

Category 5: Youth participation

Municipality of ┼lesund with the project "Young Norwegians turn their city green".

Environmentalists in Norway are convinced that involving children and young people is the key to healthier and more sustainable living. The Municipality of ┼lesund is working with Ecoagents in a campaign to promote children’s environmental rights that started in 2000. Known as “Children’s green cities”, the campaign demands children’s right to clean air, water, safe bicycle paths, and green areas where children can play.

Since 2000, six Norwegian cities have joined the campaign and each has been made a “Children’s green city”. This year, ┼lesund is working hard to become the 7th “Children’s green city” in Norway. Activities began in kindergartens and schools where children were asked for their wishes for the environment. A total of 350 posters sent to the kindergartens and schools created an opportunity for children to send in their ideas. From a combined “wish list”, the solutions to three requests were debated in a children city council where the mayor presided as chair.

To read more information on that: Press Release and CEHAPE Award booklet.

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