Accra To Host Int’l Clean Air Summit In 20242 min read
Ghana will host an international summit on clean air in Accra in October 2024, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced.
The summit will be the second ever to address air pollution on the global stage and the first to be held in Africa, with the phenomenon being responsible for nearly seven million deaths each year.
The announcement was made on the International Day of Clean Air and Blue Skies marked on Thursday, September 8, 2023 by Dr. Maria Neira, Director of the Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health Department at WHO, to raise awareness on the health risks associated with air pollution.
The UN health agency considers air pollution “one of the biggest public health emergencies facing the world”, said Dr. Neira.
“Every single day, we have news, scientific evidence and papers published demonstrating even more damage caused by exposure to air pollution. In addition to the death, which is already horribly dramatic, we need to keep in mind that we are talking about chronic diseases… [that] take away [the] quality of life and bring costs for health systems.”
The high-level meeting planned for Accra reflects the growing global recognition that air pollution, once seen as an environmental issue, is now a serious health concern; and is expected to be attended by government representatives, businesses, civil society organizations and other stakeholders from around the world.
“Every year, air pollution is killing more people than COVID killed,” Dr. Ardvind Kumar, a lung specialist based in New Delhi and founder of the Lung Care Foundation, told a World Bank Panel on Thursday.
“COVID caused death immediately, directly. Air pollution causes slow, indirect death, and hence does not get the attention. The world needs to respond to air pollution in the same [manner] that we responded to COVID,” Dr. Kumar stressed.
Air pollution will be high on the agenda at the upcoming UN climate summit in Dubai, which will kick off in November. The summit will be the first UN climate negotiation to directly consider health as a factor in the climate crisis.
Air pollution is also expected to be a topic of discussion at the G20 summit in New Dehli which will take place this weekend.
The WHO estimates that 99% of people globally breathe unsafe air. South Asia faces the world’s heaviest health toll from air pollution. This cuts the life expectancy of the average South Asian by about five years, leading to annual costs estimated at more than 10% of regional GDP every year.
“Everyone has a right to live in a clean and healthy environment, and air pollution violates this right for 99% of the world’s population,” said UN Environment Programme Director Inger Andersen.