African countries trying to develop are having more deaths from air pollution

A new study reveals that 1.1m Africans died from air pollution in 2019 and this has been a biproduct of these countries’ attempts to modernise

The Big Zero report

Air pollution led to the death of 1.1 million Africans in 2019.

That’s according to a new study published in The Lancet Planetary Health, which revealed that ambient (or outdoor) air pollution on the continent is increasing.

Household air pollution accounted for 697,000 deaths and ambient air pollution accounted for 394,000.

This was an increase from 361,000 in 2015, with the study revealing that the most highly developed countries now had the worst outdoor air and highest rates of death.

Air pollution-related mortality also led to heavy losses of economic output in the countries affected. In Ethiopia, £2.2 billion or 1.16% of its GDP were lost, this figure stood at £1.2 billion in Ghana (0.95% of its GDP) and £256 million in Rwanda (1.19% GDP).

The detrimental impacts were also witnessed in future generations of the countries, with an estimated 1.96 billion IQ points lost in African children in 2019 due to the air pollution.

The study read: “Africa is undergoing massive transition. The continent’s population is on track to more than triple in this century, from 1.3 billion in 2020 to 4.3 billion by 2100. Cities are expanding exponentially, economies are growing and life expectancy has almost doubled.

“At the same time, ambient air pollution is increasing as a consequence of increased fossil fuel combustion and ambient air pollution-related mortality has risen from 26.13 per 100,000 population in 1990, to 29.15 per 100,000 in 2019.

“Although this increase is modest, it is historically unprecedented. The greatest increases are in the most highly developed African countries.

For the solutions to the problem, it concluded: “Courageous and visionary leaders who recognise the growing danger of ambient air pollution, engage civil society and the public and take bold, evidence-based action to stop pollution at source will be key to the prevention of air pollution in Africa.

“Pollution prevention strategies that hold great promise are a transition to non-polluting renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower; reducing reliance on fossil fuels; enhancing public transport; and incorporating pollution prevention into all forward planning.”

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