AFRICA – The Health Effects Institute (HEI), a non-profit corporation specializing in research on the health effects of air pollution, has cautioned that Africa faces 1.1 million deaths annually from air pollution as the continent struggles with multiple forms of malnutrition.
In many developing African cities, air pollution include biomass from household cooking, uncontrolled waste burning, diesel emissions from old vehicles running on congested streets, diesel generators used as back up for unreliable electric grids, as well as industrial emissions.
“Clean air measures include cleaner and more efficient public transport, cleaner cookstoves and alternative fuel sources, greener industrial technologies and energy systems, reduction of slash and burn land clearing, and open waste incineration,” underscored HEI.
According to a press release published by Health Policy Watch, air pollution is the second leading risk factor for premature deaths after malnutrition, placing it well above the long-discussed issues of unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene, which ranked fourth largest risk factor for deaths.
“Leading African policymakers remain keen on developing fossil fuel sources and skeptical about the feasibility of a rapid green energy transition in view of their dismay over the lack of rich country finance to support climate action in developing economies,” the Institute announced.
The non-profit corporation has issued an alert highlighting that Africa faces some of the world’s most severe health impacts from air pollution with five countries on the continent ranking among the ten most polluted countries in the world.
“Those countries include Niger, Nigeria, Egypt, Mauritania and Cameroon, where the report, the State of Air Quality and Health Impacts in Africa, found fine particulate matter exposures ranging as high as 65-80 micrograms per cubic meter,” the statement said.
The nonprofit further revealed that some 1.1 million people in Africa died prematurely from air pollution-related diseases in 2019 while noting that the figures represent one-sixth of the total global estimate of 7 million deaths annually.
“Health impacts of air pollution tracked in the two reports range from common knowledge causes – such as lung diseases, cardiovascular diseases, stroke and hypertension – which mainly affect older people, to less discussed impacts among newborns and young children,” said HEI.
The Health Effects Institute further revealed that across Egypt, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, and South Africa, the combined annual cost of health damages from PM2.5 exposure is more than US$5.4B.
In addition, the impacts of air pollution on newborns and infants have long-term consequences for overall health including issues with lung development, increased risks of asthma, and increased susceptibility to communicable diseases such as lower respiratory infections in young children.