The WHO South-East Asia Regional Office (WHO SEARO) urges countries to implement the new Guidelines for indoor air quality: household fuel combustion as 60 per cent of homes in the region still uses solid fuel for cooking.
“We must act to protect people from air pollution. The poor, living near busy roads or industrial sites, are disproportionately affected by air pollution. Women and children pay the heaviest price, as they spend more time at home breathing in smoke and soot for cooking stoves,” WHO SEARO regional director Poonam Khetrapal Singh said.
”Half the deaths due to pneumonia in children aged less than 5 years can be attributed to household air pollution, making it a leading risk factor for childhood deaths.”
She was speaking at a regional workshop on air quality and human health in New Delhi, India, that ended on Friday.
The guidelines for indoor air quality: Household fuel combustion is designed to provide countries and implementing partners with practical information on the performance and characteristics of household combustion technologies and fuels. It is hoped that with the guidelines, they can shift to modern household energy sources as quickly and equitably as feasible.
As many as four million deaths each year have been attributable to exposure to household, or indoor, air pollution and a further 3.7 million deaths per year have been attributable to ambient or outdoor air pollution. Nearly 40 per cent of the deaths from indoor air pollution and 25 percent of those attributed to outdoor air pollution occur in 11 WHO SEARO member countries.
“The ministries of health must play a stronger role in communicating the health impacts of air pollution and advocate for policies by other sectors that offer the most health benefits,” said Khetrapal Singh.
She said WHO SEARO member countries had shown their commitment to reduce household air pollution as part of the Regional Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases 2013-2020.
The plan advocates a transition to cleaner stove technologies and fuels, including liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), bio-gas, solar coolers, electricity and low-fume fuels such as methanol and ethanol.
“Member states now need to develop national databases on household fuel use and emissions and design programs aimed at encouraging the use of better cooking stoves, fuels and good cooking practices.”
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