Mongolia’s air pollution is a child health crisis

21 February 2018
A boy waiting for his bus to a local school in Songinokhairkhan district
UNICEF/UN0154526/Batbaatar

 

ULAANBAATAR, 22 February 2018 – A joint report commissioned by the National Center for Public Health and UNICEF raises the alarm about the implications of air pollution on children’s  health. The authors estimate that if Ulaanbaatar’s air pollution levels do  not rapidly decrease in the coming years, the financial cost of treating air pollution related diseases in children is expected to increase 33 per cent by 2025. This means an additional cost of MNT 4.8 billion (just over US$2 million) per year for the public health system by 2025. 

Air pollution in Ulaanbaatar where a half of the country’s children live is amongst the highest in the world during the cold season. During peak hours, extremely high levels of air pollution have been reported. For example, on 30 January, 2018 at 5am, the monitoring station at Baruun 4 zam reported levels of PM2.5 pollution at 3,320 micrograms per cubic meter —133 times above WHO recommendations. 

The report, “Mongolia’s air pollution crisis: A call to action to protect children’s health” calls for potential action to prevent and treat the health impact of air pollution, alongside a broader effort towards reducing the levels of air pollution. 

In the last 10 years, incidences of respiratory diseases in Ulaanbaatar alarmingly increased including a 2.7-fold increase in respiratory infections per 10,000 population. Pneumonia is now the second leading cause for under-five child mortality in the country. Children living in a highly polluted district of central Ulaanbaatar were found to have 40 per cent lower lung function than children living in a rural area.

“Air pollution has become a child health crisis in Ulaanbaatar, putting every child and pregnancy at risk. The risks include stillbirth, preterm birth, lower birth weight, pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma and death. It is a real threat to Mongolia’s human capital”, said UNICEF Mongolia Representative Alex Heikens. “Reducing air pollution levels is the only long term sustainable solution to protect children’s health. In the meantime, thousands of children will continue to suffer from air pollution. So we call for action to not only invest in cleaner and more efficient energy, but also in reducing children’s exposure, to provide better treatment to children with air pollution related diseases, and strengthen children’s overall health to reduce their vulnerability to air pollution“.

The report recommends the following to reduce the impact of air pollution on children’s health:

-       Strengthen public education campaigns to raise awareness and improve understanding amongst the public on the health consequences of air pollution; protection measures; use of clean technology and fuels and early recognition of respiratory diseases among children. 

-       Rollout of the Pneumococcal Vaccine that will have an immediate effect on the health of children exposed to air pollution as it protects against invasive pneumococcal disease and pneumonia.

-       Improve indoor air quality in public kindergartens, schools and hospitals where children spend a considerable amount of time.

-       Provide guidance to the public on the use and access to good quality face masks.

Furthermore, the report provides some medium and long-term recommendations to strengthen the health system as a whole, and provides recommendations for further research to better understand the health impacts. 

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Note to editors: Video: Air Pollution and Child Health in Mongolia https://www.facebook.com/unicefmongolia/videos/1765622116829620/

For additional information, read the report at https://www.unicef.org/mongolia/Mongolia_air_pollution_crisis_ENG.pdf  

For more information, please contact: 

Ariunzaya Davaa, UNICEF Mongolia, Tel: +976 99112652, adavaa@unicef.org

Media Contacts

Christopher de Bono

Regional Chief of Communication

UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific

Tel: +66 (0)2 356 9406

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