WHO – Every day around 93% of the worlds children under the age of 15 years (1.8 billion children) breathe air that is so polluted it puts their health and development at serious risk. Tragically, many of them die: WHO estimates that in 2016, 600,000 children died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air.
A new WHO report on Air pollution and child health: Prescribing clean air examines the heavy toll of both ambient (outside) and household air pollution on the health of the worlds children, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. The report is being launched on the eve of WHOs first ever Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health.
It reveals that when pregnant women are exposed to polluted air, they are more likely to give birth prematurely, and have small, low birth-weight children. Air pollution also impacts neurodevelopment and cognitive ability and can trigger asthma, and childhood cancer. Children who have been exposed to high levels of air pollution may be at greater risk for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease later in life.
“Polluted air is poisoning millions of children and ruining their lives,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This is inexcusable. Every child should be able to breathe clean air so they can grow and fulfil their full potential.”
One reason why children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution is that they breathe more rapidly than adults and so absorb more pollutants.
They also live closer to the ground, where some pollutants reach peak concentrations – at a time when their brains and bodies are still developing.
Newborns and young children are also more susceptible to household air pollution in homes that regularly use polluting fuels and technologies for cooking, heating and lighting
“Air Pollution is stunting our childrens brains, affecting their health in more ways than we suspected. But there are many straight-forward ways to reduce emissions of dangerous pollutants,” says Dr Maria Neira, Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health at WHO.
“WHO is supporting implementation of health-wise policy measures like accelerating the switch to clean cooking and heating fuels and technologies, promoting the use of cleaner transport, energy-efficient housing and urban planning. We are preparing the ground for low emission power generation, cleaner, safer industrial technologies and better municipal waste management, ” she added.
- Air pollution affects neurodevelopment, leading to lower cognitive test outcomes, negatively affecting mental and motor development.
- Air pollution is damaging childrens lung function, even at lower levels of exposures
- Globally, 93% of the worlds children under 15 years of age are exposed to ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) levels above WHO air quality guidelines, which include the 630 million of children under 5 years of age, and 1.8 billion of children under 15 years
- In low- and middle-income countries around the world, 98% of all children under 5 are exposed to PM2.5 levels above WHO air quality guidelines. In comparison, in high-income countries, 52% of children under 5 are exposed to levels above WHO air quality guidelines.
- More than 40% of the worlds population – which includes 1 billion children under 15 – is exposed to high levels of household air pollution from mainly cooking with polluting technologies and fuels.
- About 600000 deaths in children under 15 years of age were attributed to the joint effects of ambient and household air pollution in 2016.
- Together, household air pollution from cooking and ambient (outside) air pollution cause more than 50% of acute lower respiratory infections in children under 5 years of age in low- and middle-income countries.
- Air pollution is one of the leading threats to child health, accounting for almost 1 in 10 deaths in children under five years of age.
WHOs First Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, which opens in Geneva on Tuesday 30 October will provide the opportunity for world leaders; ministers of health, energy, and environment; mayors; heads of intergovernmental organizations; scientists and others to commit to act against this serious health threat, which shortens the lives of around 7 million people each year. Actions should include:
- Action by the health sector to inform, educate, provide resources to health professionals, and engage in inter-sectoral policy making.
- Implementation of policies to reduce air pollution: All countries should work towards meeting WHO global air quality guidelines to enhance the health and safety of children. To achieve this, governments should adopt such measures as reducing the over-dependence on fossil fuels in the global energy mix, investing in improvements in energy efficiency and facilitating the uptake of renewable energy sources. Better waste management can reduce the amount of waste that is burned within communities and thereby reducing community air pollution. The exclusive use of clean technologies and fuels for household cooking, heating and lighting activities can drastically improve the air quality within homes and in the surrounding community.
- Steps to minimize childrens exposure to polluted air: Schools and playgrounds should be located away from major sources of air pollution like busy roads, factories and power plants.
Ebola cases in Eastern Congo reaches 300 as mistrust and insecurity hamper response
In response to the number of Ebola cases in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reaching 300,..
In response to the number of Ebola cases in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reaching 300, Chals Wontewe, Oxfam’s Country Director in the DRC, said:
“Three months on, mistrust and insecurity are making it extremely difficult to bring the Ebola outbreak under control – with the number of cases increasing by almost 80 percent in the last month alone.
“Years of protracted violence, forced displacement and severe hunger have led to mistrust amongst affected communities. Many people are still terrified to go to Ebola treatment centres.
“At the same time, violent attacks have meant that Oxfam and other agencies have had to suspend all activities. Every day the response is suspended by violence could mean potential cases missed and people not vaccinated, undermining all the hard work to keep this outbreak under control.
“Much more must be done to put those affected by Ebola at the heart of the response to make sure all their concerns are heard and addressed.”
For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:
– Scheherazade Bouabid (in DRC) on firstname.lastname@example.org / +243 (0) 815 163 782
– Oxfam GB’s media unit (in the UK) on email@example.com / +44 (0)1865 472498
Notes to editors:
· Reports from the joint government and agencies surveillance commission show that the number of cases have increased by 78% between 1 October – 1 November 2018.
· Since the beginning of the response to the Ebola Outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri, Oxfam is providing clean, safe drinking water and delivering Ebola prevention messages to the affected population. The response has been interrupted by several attacks by armed groups, roadblocks and gunfire.
· Seven civilians were reported killed in attacks in Beni this weekend (3 November) while dozens of civilians were killed in attacks in the territory in October.
Save the Children health facility comes under attack in Hodeidah
A Save the Children supported health facility in the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah came under attack ..
A Save the Children supported health facility in the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah came under attack this morning, damaging one of the pharmacies that supplies life-saving medicines. Shelling has also hit residential areas.
On the night of November 4, the Saudi and Emirati-led Coalition escalated their current military offensive including heavy airstrikes over the coastal city of Hodeidah.
Soldiers allied to the Government of Yemen are now waging a battle within the city area. The lives of hundreds of thousands of people, roughly half of them children, are in danger.
Artillery shelling is being used heavily by all sides. More than 150 people have been reported killed.
There were temporary road blocks preventing people from leaving or entering the city overnight, in effect trapping them in an active conflict zone.
Save the Children is deeply concerned for the wellbeing of civilians trapped inside Hodeidah and urges the warring parties to stop the fighting immediately and seek a political solution to this brutal conflict. The UN Security Council must make this a reality.
Save the Children spokespeople are available in Yemen and London
+44 7467 096788
+44 7831 650409
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