• May 23, 2024

Children bequeathed lethal environments

toxic waste photo
Photo by Zaskoda

The World Health Organization says that more than one in four deaths of children under five years of age are attributable to unhealthy environments.

In a press note issued today about two new reports, the WHO said the five main causes of death in children under five years of age were linked to the environment.

‘Every year, environmental risks – such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene – take the lives of 1.7 million children under five years,’ the press note said, citing the reports.

‘The first report, Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children’s Health and the Environment reveals that a large portion of the most common causes of death among children aged one month to five years – diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia – are preventable by interventions known to reduce environmental risks, such as access to safe water and clean cooking fuels.

‘A companion report, Don’t pollute my future! The impact of the environment on children’s health, provides a comprehensive overview of the environment’s impact on children’s health, illustrating the scale of the challenge. Every year:

  • 570,000 children under five years die from respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution, and second-hand smoke.
  • 361,000 children under five years die due to diarrhoea, as a result of poor access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene.
  • 270,000 children die during their first month of life from conditions, including prematurity, which could be prevented through access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene in health facilities as well as reducing air pollution.
  • 200,000 deaths of children under five years from malaria could be prevented through environmental actions, such as reducing breeding sites of mosquitoes or covering drinking-water storage.
  • 200,000 children under five years die from unintentional injuries attributable to the environment, such as poisoning, falls, and drowning.

There was no mention in the press note about the effects of poverty on small children.