- 51% of individuals attending a referral hospital for an air pollution-related disease, worked in the informal sector, according to a WHO-Urban Health Initiative survey.
- On average, uninsured individuals paid US$ 1090 per hospitalization from air pollution related diseases each year in Accra.
- For those with chronic conditions (e.g. cancers or severe cardiovascular and respiratory diseases), average medical costs were estimated at US$ 2146, per
- A total health expenditure of 10% or more ofhousehold consumption or income is considered a catastrophic expense.
During a recent meeting with community leaders and traders as part of the Urban Health Initiative BreatheLife Accra Project, Desmond Appiah, the Chief Sustainability Advisor at the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, called on residents to desist from burning waste to reduce air pollution. He said indiscriminate burning of waste, fumes from vehicles and unclean cooking methods were the leading causes of air pollution in the city.
According to World Health Organization data, in 2016 approximately 28,210 Ghanaians died prematurely from air-pollution related diseases. Household and ambient air pollution are among the top environmental health threats facing the country. Young children are plagued by a high rate of childhood pneumonia, due to spending long hours near wood and charcoal cookstoves. Older people bear the brunt of other air pollution-related diseases, such as heart attack, lung cancer and stroke.
The Urban Health Initiative and BreatheLife Accra promotes air pollution reduction strategies by mobilizing and empowering the health sector, and by demonstrating the full range of health co-benefits that can be achieved, particularly at the city level. It is being carried out in Accra in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, with support from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.
Mr. Appiah said the Accra Metropolitan Assembly decided to bring together stakeholders who were vulnerable to poor air quality in order to appreciate the consequences of air pollution.
“We have engaged selected communities, churches, and schools among others and today we believe that it is right to bring together street vendors, informal waste collectors and pickers, market women as well as transport operators to have an appreciation of the challenge and what can be done about it,” he said.
“We believe the first step is getting data and sharing the information” said Mr. Appiah.
Mr Appiah said the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency had introduced a law to prohibit vehicles that produced fumes in the city and arrest drivers that don’t comply.
Dr Kofi Amegah, a Senior Lecturer of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Cape Coast, said in his presentation Air pollution in Accra City: Vulnerable Populations, Health Impacts and Interventions, that air pollution was a major environmental risk to health. He said major sources of air pollution in Accra were vehicular emissions, industrial emissions, suspended road dust, emissions from landfill sites, power generation plants, use of solid fuels for domestic and commercial cooking and solid waste burning at home.
“Globally seven million people die prematurely every year from air pollution and among these deaths 34 per cent, 21 per cent, and 20 per cent are from Ischaemic heart diseases, pneumonia and strokes, respectively,” Dr Amegah said.
He said 19 percent of the deaths associated with air pollution were also from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease while seven per cent were from lung cancer.
Air pollution is the presence of substances in the atmosphere that were harmful to the health of humans and other living beings, or cause damage to the climate or to materials some of which, he said, could be solid particles, liquid droplets, or gases such as ammonia, carbon monoxide, Sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides, methane and chlorofluorocarbons, particulates, and organic and inorganic biological molecules, Mr Amegah said.
It was the responsibility of every individual to ensure the cleanliness of the city, he said, and appealed to drivers to also service their vehicles regularly to reduce pollution.
“I would like to advise that we patronise public transport, ride bicycles and use Liquefied Petroleum Gas instead of using firewood,” he said.
This story originally appeared on Ghana Web.