November 8: UNICEF has called for urgent action to address the air quality crisis of South Asia.
After a recent visit to South Asia, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore issued a statement urging governments in the region and around the world to take urgent steps to reduce air pollution by investing in cleaner, renewable sources of energy to replace fossil fuel combustion.
According to Fore, the air quality in South Asia is at crisis level. She added that the ripple effects of air pollution extend far and wide.
She said that children are the most vulnerable group and health expenses may increase if children need care and treatment. Parents may need to stay home too, in order to take care of their children. Potential income is lost and quality of life is reduced, she added.
“I was just in South Asia where I saw first-hand how children continue to suffer from the dire consequences of air pollution,” she said in the statement
“The toxicity to children's brain development and health is also toxic to society, which no government can afford to ignore,” Fore added.
She further said that around 620 million children in the region breathe polluted, toxic air. Because they have smaller lungs, breathe twice as fast as adults, and lack the immunities that come with age, children endure its damaging health and neurological effects the most, the statement added.
According to Fore, air pollution is associated with one of the biggest killers of children – pneumonia, and linked to asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory infections.
Air pollution also damages brain tissue and undermines cognitive development in babies and young children, leading to lifelong consequences that can affect their learning outcomes and future potential, she added.