Air pollution is a major contributor to respiratory diseases in Kenya, a government official disclosed on Wednesday.
Charles Sunkuli, the Principal Secretary Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, said that over eight million Kenyans living in major cities are falling victim due to exposure from harmful emissions from vehicles, industries, use of traditional fuels and kerosene used for cooking and heating.
“Respiratory disease is the leading cause of morbidity in the country currently,” he said during the Second Air Quality annual conference in Nairobi.
Sunkuli said statistics show that diseases of the respiratory system affected 19.9 million people, accounting for 39 percent of the 50.8 million cases of facility based incidence of diseases reported in 2016.
He said 14,300 Kenyans die annually due to conditions attributed to air pollution while plants and agricultural yields are also affected by pollution.
The number of diseases of the respiratory system reported increased by 63 percent over a four year period from 12.2 million in 2012 to 19.9 million in 2016, Sunkuli said.
Sunkuli said the government has initiated a process of developing a National Air Quality Management Strategy (NAQMS) and Action Plan by putting in place an inter-agency committee with different roles and responsibilities in air quality management.
“Kenya may not achieve a clean, secure and sustainable environment by 2030 if the problem of air pollution is not collectively tackled,” Sunkuli said.
Stacey Noel, Africa Center Director, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) urged air quality experts to explore linkages to policy actions to help reduce respiratory diseases in Kenya.
“It is unfortunate that emissions from Nairobi city are far above the World Health Organization (WHO),” Noel added.
She revealed that the organization intends to support policy makers in Africa to apply air quality research findings that has been generated by different scholars.
Kenya’s economy is highly dependent on its natural resource base and climate-sensitive sectors including agriculture, energy transport, tourism and water, making it highly vulnerable to climate variability and change.
Participants at the conference called for an integrated approach whereby air quality issues are addressed together with climate change mitigation and adaptation actions across all development sectors.
The integrated approach to air quality and climate change will also enable Kenya to meets her international obligations, including the SDGs, the Paris Agreement, and the Stockholm Convention, among others.
The conference is expected to identify priority actions to be carried out in 2018 on data and research, policy and stakeholder engagement, education and public awareness.
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