The World Health Organisation South-East Asia Region (WHO SEAR) yesterday called on its member countries to address the double burden of household and ambient (outdoor) air pollution.

According to a press release from WHO SEAR office, the region accounts for 34 percent or 2.4M (millions) of the 7M premature deaths caused by household and ambient air pollution globally every year.

Of the 3.8M deaths caused by household air pollution globally, the region accounts for 1.5M deaths (40 percent). And of the 4.2M global deaths due to outdoor air pollution, 1.3M (30 percents) are reported from the region, according to the latest WHO report.

Regional director for WHO SEARO, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said that though there is progress in the region as most countries have national action plans for prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which incorporate measures to address household air pollution, and more cities are now measuring air quality, there is a need to do much more, and with an urgent and aggressive approach.

The press release states that NCDs are the leading cause of deaths globally and in the region, and air pollution contributes significantly to NCDs such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and lung cancer. “Cleaning up the air we breathe will help prevent NCDs, particularly among women and vulnerable groups such as children, those already ill and the elderly.”

The availability of clean household energy affects everyone and is a key to sustainable development, the press release states.  “All countries in the region are making efforts to expand availability of clean fuels and technologies, however, over 60 peercent of population do not have clean fuel.”

Investing in effective urban planning with energy-efficient housing and power generation; building safe and affordable public transport systems; improving industry and municipal waste management; eliminating emissions from coal and biomass energy systems; properly managing agricultural waste, forest fires and agro-forestry activities such as charcoal production; and supporting the transition to exclusive use of clean household energy for cooking, heating and lighting are some of the solutions to address air pollution.

Staff reporter