More than 3000 People May Die In Kabul Because of Air Pollution Every year

Press Release / Afghanistan's Ministry of Public Health (MoPH)

Kabul, January 15, 2009: The air pollution can cause or exacerbate a number of serious diseases among inhabitants of an air polluted city. These diseases include Ischemic Heart diseases, stroke, hypertension, and a number of respiratory disease and birth defects. Those who are at highest risk of being affected by air pollution are children, the elderly and patients who already have diabetes, heart disease and respiratory disease. Air pollution can also affect fetus in the mother’s womb. A large study in Los Angeles showed that air pollution due to carbon mono-oxide can increase ventricular septal birth defects. This condition is already high in Afghanistan. Knowing the high concentration of carbon mono oxide in Kabul, it is of great concern to us that birth defects may be on the rise in Kabul. The MoPH will be gathering data on birth defects and other conditions soon.

“I would like to appreciate the efforts of the NEPA for raising awareness about the health hazards of air pollution in Kabul, on the basis of which His Excellency Mr. Karzai, the president of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan tasked a commission for improving the air quality in Kabul” said Dr. S.M. Amin Fatimie, Minister of Public Health of Afghanistan during a press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 14 January 2009. He also added “The MoPH has studied the proposed plan of NEPA for reducing air pollution and endorses its practicality and effectiveness. In order to implement this plan, an inter-sectoral approach is in place. The MoPH on its part will start implementing its quality measures by removing hospital incinerator out of the city to incinerate hospital waste away from the city. Toward this goal, MoPH will need to import bigger and efficient incinerators to be installed in a safe locality and operated by qualified technicians.”

It has been shown that when air particles of size 2.5 microgram or smaller increase by 10 micrograms per cubic meter air, there is a 6% increase in cardiovascular deaths and an 8% increase in death from lung cancer per year. The mortality from all disease increase by 4%. We know that the average crude mortality in Afghanistan is 17 per 1000 population per year. This means that in the city of Kabul in the absence of air pollution we lose about 76500 people. However, if we apply the 4% increase in mortality due to air pollution to the population of Kabul, then an extra 3060 persons may be losing their lives due to air pollution per year. So instead of 76500 people losing their lives, in Kabul we lose 79560 persons. The MoPH would also cooperate with the commission to periodically provide data from the health facilities on disease caused or exacerbated by the air pollution so that we can measure the consequences of air pollution and to observe its upward or downward trend overtime.

In the Los Angles study it was also shown that high level of ground level Ozone pollution can also cause birth defects, especially valvular and aortic defects. Knowing the air condition in Kabul, especially during the hot months of summer when the Ozone level can be high, diseases exacerbated or caused by Ozone is of concern in Kabul including birth defects.

To destroy outdated and/or fake drug items, the World Health Organization recommendations will be strictly followed. For this tasks too, we will need equipment and disposable items such as drums for the burial of liquid medicines. The MoPH will raise awareness regarding the hospital waste management among hospital administrators and will train staff on the safe method of waste disposal and equipment usages.

These trends can be then linked to the trend of Air Quality Index (AQI) to measure our progress, after a multi-sectoral intervention has been implemented.

On behalf of the commission, MoPH requests all friends of the government of Afghanistan to provide their support so that plans made for improving the air pollution in Afghanistan can be promptly implemented.

MoPH Afghanistan is indebted to many individuals and health stakeholders, especially Afghan families and elders, European Commission, UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank, USAID, Rotary International, CIDA, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI Alliance) and JICA.

Ministry of Public Health delivers health services impartially and without any form of discrimination to the needy people of Afghanistan in all corners of the country and requests all parties to respect this policy and support health care providers to fulfill this noble job.

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