Air pollution causes 16,000 premature deaths in Ghana annually – World Bank report

About 16,000 infants lose their lives through premature deaths annually in Ghana due to air pollution, making it the top environmental risk to public health, a 2020 World Bank Country Environmental Analysis (CEA) on Ghana has disclosed.

According to the report, 2020 saw 8,500 premature deaths in the country occurring in urban areas, while 7,600 occurred in rural areas.

The report noted that the air pollution mortality rate, including the ambient (outdoor) air pollution and the household (indoor/near home) air pollution, is 105 people per 100,000 of the population.

The 2020 CEA report found that approximately 66% of related deaths in rural Ghana were due to household or near-home air pollution, with estimated annual mortality from air pollution reaching more than 28,000 of the population.

Again, it is estimated that the cost of the country’s air pollution is US$2.5 billion, equivalent to 4.2% of the 2017 Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while the average cost of its Green House Gas emissions to the global community was US$2.3 billion each year.

Illnesses associated with air pollution-related deaths include; lung cancer, ischaemic heart diseases, stroke, acute lower respiratory infection and chronic pulmonary diseases like bronchitis and emphysema.

World Bank environmental specialist George Amoasah made the revelation at a workshop in Accra last Friday, September 24.

The workshop was held to disseminate information on the ‘Pollution Management and Environmental Health Programme’, to address existing monitoring and planning gaps for air quality management.

It is a World Bank programme funded by Norway, Germany, and the United Kingdom, to build Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) capacity.

During a presentation on the ‘Environment, Health and Economic Impacts of Ambient and Household Air Pollution in Ghan’, Mr Amoasah said air pollution in the country was dire and must not be taken for granted.

He added that air pollution was the sixth-ranked overall death risk in Ghana, while 100% of the population was exposed to Particulate Matters (PM) concentration levels that exceeded World Health Organisation (WHO) limits.

Over 70% of Ghana’s population (20.5 million) burn solid fuels like fuelwood, charcoal, and dung in their homes for cooking and heating, which pollute the air people breathe both at the rural and urban centres.

Deputy director in charge of air quality at EPA Emmanuel Appoh said air pollution due to open burning, which was a crime in the country, was still very high and needed concerted efforts led by the local government at the district level to be dealt with.

Deputy executive director in charge of technical services at EPA Ebenezer Appah-Sampong commended the partners that had come in to empower the agency to do its work efficiently to help manage emissions in the country.

He said the programme had improved the air quality monitoring activity of the EPA, especially within the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area, and could now employ new measurement methods for air quality monitoring and analysis.

“It has also enhanced understanding of the importance of rigorous attention to standard operating procedures and quality assurances protocols necessary for high-quality gravimetric analysis.

“EPA now has enhanced capacity to perform receptor modelling on new results moving forward”.

He emphasised the need to expand the air quality network to other regions of the country, including Kumasi, Tema, Takoradi, Tamale and other rural areas where there were issues related to charcoal burning and others.

World Bank support to Ghana                         

Meanwhile, the World Bank Country Director for Ghana, Pierre Laporte, has indicated that the World Bank would assist the country in reducing air pollution to improve public health through the management and environmental health initiative.

The initiative, a partnership between the World Bank and EPA, aims to reduce the country’s atmospheric air pollution levels and improve the quality of air.

This would reduce the risks associated with air pollution, including heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, and respiratory illnesses.

Mr Laporte underscored that to ensure a healthier Ghana, the role of civil society and the media were crucial in advocating for a change among the populace on the need to stop indiscriminate pollution of the environment.

“We need dramatic and systemic change and awareness creation for the stakeholders to understand the impact of air pollution and the behaviour change, and enforcing environmental standards,” he said.

The Ghana Country Environment Analysis

The Ghana Country Environment Analysis (CEA) has been formulated to assist the government of Ghana and its development partners to, among other things, assess the country’s environmental priorities in crucial sectors.

This includes the environmental implications of critical economic and sector policies and the country’s institutional capacity to address them.

It also helps find practical management, institutional, and policy solutions to handle issues of natural resource management, environmental degradation, and sustainability of growth.

The CEA enables the country to strengthen environmental governance, remove policy, regulatory, and institutional bottlenecks, and reinforce coordination and dialogue to mainstream Environmental and Natural Resource Management (ENRM).

This, the World Bank has noted that is crucial for reducing the vulnerability of the poor in both rural and urban areas and critical in ensuring that natural resources contribute to greater wealth and sustainable growth.

READ ALSO: WHO Warns Low Air Quality Kills 7 Million A Year, Issues New AQGs

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