Two years ago the World Health Organisation (WHO) identified air pollution as the world’s worst environmental health risk. It estimated that more than seven million people die prematurely due to air pollution every year. That is a staggering one in every eight deaths globally.
More than half of these deaths are as a result of household air pollution, almost all of which occurs in low- and middle-income countries. Africa has the highest number of these deaths after South East Asia and the Western Pacific. This is driven, in part, by the large percentage of the population using domestic solid fuel. Sub-Saharan African countries are estimated to have among the highest rates of deaths related to indoor air pollution from domestic fuel use.
Yet the WHO has not put in place an air quality programme for its sub-Saharan Africa region, even though these exist for other regions. The programmes include reviewing evidence on the health effects of air pollution, developing methods to quantify health risks and helping countries develop sustainable air quality policies.