Baku, Azerbaijan, Mar. 6
By Emil Ilgar – Trend:
More than 1 in 4 deaths of children under 5 years of age are attributable to unhealthy environments.
Every year, environmental risks – such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene – take the lives of 1.7 million children under 5 years, say two WHO reports published March 6.
The World Health Organization says the ratio can increase in future.
"A polluted environment is a deadly one – particularly for young children," says Margaret Chan, WHO director general.
According to her, young children’s developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water:
- 570,000 children under 5 years die from respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution, and second-hand smoke.
- 361,000 children under 5 years die due to diarrhoea, as a result of poor access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene.
- 270,000 children die during their first month of life from conditions, including pre-maturity, which could be prevented through access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene in health facilities as well as reducing air pollution.
- 200,000 deaths of children under 5 years from malaria could be prevented through environmental actions, such as reducing breeding sites of mosquitoes or covering drinking-water storage.
- 200,000 children under 5 years die from unintentional injuries attributable to the environment, such as poisoning, falls, and drowning.
With climate change, temperatures and levels of carbon dioxide are rising, favouring pollen growth which is associated with increased rates of asthma in children, the report says.
Worldwide, 11–14% of children aged 5 years and older currently report asthma symptoms and an estimated 44% of these are related to environmental exposures.