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UNICEF to facilitate discussion on reducing the impact of air pollution on children’s health

© UNICEF Mongolia/2016/Enkhzul Altangerel
9 year-old Nandinzaya goes to school everyday when the air pollution level is highest

Mongolia is a country that is growing fast with the urbanization rate at over 63%, resulting in unplanned settlements and increased air, water and soil pollution.  The capital city Ulaanbaatar has some of the worst winter outdoor air pollution in the world, a problem of growing concern among residents. WHO statistics rate Ulaanbaatar as one of the most polluted cities with highest air pollution levels.

Annual average concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) are over seven times higher than the WHO guidelines established to minimize morbidity and mortality risk.

This pollution is due to burning of raw coal in heating stoves in the residential sector with 70% of PM2.5 in the ger district attributable to residential heating, although other sources such as power plants, vehicles, and industry also contribute to the situation. Residents of Ulaanbaatar’s ger districts typically use coal-burning stoves to heat their homes continuously throughout the winter months (October-March), when temperatures regularly reach -40 C.

Due to increased indoor and outdoor air pollution, respiratory tract infection is one of the major causes for child mortality and morbidity, especially during the cold season. In 2012, half out of 300,000 registered cases of respiratory tract related diseases were children under five. Pneumonia is a leading cause of child death from the age of one month to five years in Mongolia constituting 15 per cent of under-five mortality (U5M).  Air pollution also increases risk of preterm and low birth weight infants as per findings of researches conducted in other countries.

In response to this clear need for increased attention, prioritization and policy action on mitigation of the hazardous effects of air pollution on child health, UNICEF Mongolia Country Office in partnership with the Government of Mongolia will organize and host an international expert consultation on “Addressing the impact of Air Pollution on Children: Sharing of knowledge on effective responses” on 25-26 January 2016,  with the aim of capitalizing on cutting edge approaches and innovations and discuss their adaptation and replicability for children in Mongolia.

The Consultation aims to provide an international knowledge exchange platform for cutting edge policy and innovative approaches in mitigating the negative effects of air pollution on child health.  Furthermore, it will stimulate policy dialogue with Mongolian authorities and represent a building block of effective policy decision to mitigate the impact of air pollution on children. 

Ultimately, the consultation will result in a set of concrete recommendations for policy makers and communities in Mongolia to take forward and pilot while at the same time will serve as a learning experience for countries experiencing similar issues to Mongolia.





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