July 16, 2024

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Uganda: Alarming Number of Premature Deaths Linked to Air Pollution, Nema Warns

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The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has expressed deep concern about the alarming number of premature deaths attributed to air pollution.

These remarks were made during the launch of Air Quality Awareness Week, scheduled from May 6th to May 10th, 2024.

Under the theme “Knowing your air to Protect Human Health and the Environment,” the week aims to raise public awareness about the critical importance of air quality and the continuous efforts needed to improve it.

During the event held at the Uganda Media Center, Barirega Akankwasah, the Executive Director of NEMA, emphasised the severe risks associated with air pollution and the urgent measures required to combat this escalating crisis.

Akankwasah highlighted the global magnitude of the air pollution problem.

“Air pollution, including fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and tropospheric ozone and their precursors, is the leading environmental risk to human health, with 99% of people worldwide exposed to air pollution levels that exceed the WHO guidelines,” he stated.

Citing data from the World Health Organization, Akankwasah pointed out that air pollution is associated with 6.7 million premature deaths each year. Comparing this figure to other causes of death, he questioned the insufficient attention given to air pollution.

“COVID-19 killed 6.9 million people, and the global attention completely shifted from economics and politics to COVID-19. Why should the world not pay attention to Air Pollution that is killing 6.7 million people globally?” he queried.

Akankwasah expressed concern about the inadequate investment in air pollution control and the need for increased focus.

He stated, “It is quite clear that air quality-related death is unrivalled by any other known cause of death in every single year on a global scale, yet the attention and investment in Air Pollution Control remains minimal if at all.”

Providing insights into the air pollution situation in Uganda, Akankwasah revealed the devastating impact on public health.

“In Uganda, compromised air quality increases disease burden, with close to 31,600 people dying from air pollution-related diseases annually, especially in urban areas,” he said.

He identified transportation as the leading cause of air pollution, followed by domestic and biomass burning, industrial emissions, and dust from unpaved roads.

Akankwasah presented a series of measures implemented by the Ugandan government to address the air pollution crisis.

These measures include the establishment of national standards and regulations for air quality, increasing forest cover through extensive tree-planting efforts, and mandating the installation of emission control devices in industries.

He also highlighted the importance of proper waste management, paving roads to reduce particulate matter, addressing vehicular pollution through engine restrictions and improved fuel quality, and promoting cleaner energy sources for households and industries.

Akankwasah called upon all citizens, government ministries, departments, agencies, the private sector, and civil society to actively embrace the proposed interventions.

He emphasised the collective responsibility in effectively tackling the escalating problem of air pollution in Uganda.

As Air Quality Awareness Week commences, the nation is urged to unite in the fight against air pollution, safeguarding both human health and the environment for a sustainable future.

By  Nile Post.

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