Last updated: 5 April 2019 8:35 AM (GMT)
By Muntaka Chasant | 995 words | Reading time: 3.5 min
Credit: Muntaka Chasant | Kampala, Uganda | February 2013
AIR POLLUTION IN UGANDA
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People in Uganda are more likely to die from air pollution than those in Tanzania, Rwanda, and twice as likely as those in Kenya, figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show.1
Burden of disease (mortality and morbidity) attributable to air pollution in Uganda has been on the rise in recent years.
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Kampala, Uganda's capital, has the second worst air in Africa, according to the AirVisual's 2018 World Air Quality Report.
The mortality rate for air pollution in Uganda was 155.7 for every 100,000 in 2016. The rate was 70.5 for every 100,000 deaths in 2012, the WHO data shows.
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The mortality rate (per 100,000 people) for air pollution in Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania were 78.1, 121.4 and 139 respectively.
Uganda’s annual mean levels of PM2.5 far exceed the WHO guidelines by nearly 10 times (48.7 micrograms per cubic meter [μg/m3] of ultra-fine particles of 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter which can penetrate and lodge inside the cardiovascular system).
The WHO recommended annual guideline for PM2.5 is 5 μg/m3 (September 2021 WHO update).
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Kenya’s annual mean levels of PM2.5 was 25.8 μg/m3 in 2016.
Air pollution is linked to around 7 million premature deaths worldwide every year, with countries in Africa and Asia worst impacted.2
AIR QUALITY MONITORING IN UGANDA
Uganda lacks real-time, sufficient and publicly accessible air quality monitoring network. Scarcity of reliable data and air pollution exposure information is a major issue in Uganda.
There are a few privately installed air quality monitoring networks around Kampala. These include AirVisual Node Monitors and a real-time PM2.5 monitor on the U.S. Embassy compound in Kampala.
You can view the U.S. Embassy in Kampala real-time air quality index (AQI) on US EPA’s AirNow platform in the link below:
A study in 2015 recorded significant levels of PM2.5 in Kampala (138.6 μg/m3), and Jinja (99.3 μg/m3), a town 80km east of Kampala on Lake Victoria.3
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF AIR POLLUTION IN UGANDA?
Air pollution in Uganda is driven by rapid urbanization and population growth in urban areas.
Uganda's dirty air is characterized by smoke from car exhaust, industry, residential trash burning, road dust, and soot from indoor biomass-fuelled cookstoves for cooking.
Credit: Muntaka Chasant | Kampala, Uganda | February 2013
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WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF AIR POLLUTION IN UGANDA?
Air pollution is a critical risk factor for non-communicable diseases in Uganda.
Globally, air pollution is responsible for about 25% of all adult deaths from stroke, 24% from heart disease, 43% from Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and 29% from lung cancer, WHO estimates show.
About 13,000 people died from air pollution in Uganda in 2017, updated figures from the Health Effects Institute (HEI) and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) reveal.
More than 10,000 of the deaths were due to inhaling toxic fumes from indoor wood and charcoal-burning cookstoves – household air pollution.
“The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes,” says Dr Maria Neira, Director of WHO’s Department for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe.”
NUMBER OF DEATHS ATTRIBUTABLE TO AIR POLLUTION IN UGANDA (1990-2017)
The plots above show Uganda's air pollution-related deaths between 1990 and 2017.
Increased pollution exposure does not always imply increased in death rate.
Your risk of premature death from air pollution is determined by a number of factors. These include your exposure level, overall health, quality of life and your country’s standard of healthcare.
Countries with poor healthcare system generally record more deaths (when air pollution levels are high or even stable) as opposed to countries with better healthcare systems (even when pollution levels are high).
People in developing countries such as Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya generally tend to have less access to health services.
This partly explains why more people die from air pollution in poorer countries than in rich economies.
WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS FOR AIR POLLUTION IN UGANDA?
1. Air Quality Assessment. Without reliable data to show air quality standards are being breached, city and national authorities may not have cause to act on air pollution levels.
2. Uganda’s EPA should regularly issue air quality alerts especially when air pollution conditions are expected to impact health. This informs the public and vulnerable population - including children and older adults - about air pollution levels.
3. Improvement in urban transit system could also reduce traffic in Kampala and other urban areas.
4. Cities around the world are now banning the most polluting cars from entering city centers. Uganda could consider this as well as zero-emission zones measures to tackle poor air quality levels in urban areas.
See how cities around the world are tackling air pollution in this link: Air Pollution Killing More People in Ghana
“Excessive air pollution is often a by-product of unsustainable policies in sectors such as transport, energy, waste management and industry. In most cases, healthier strategies will also be more economical in the long term due to health-care cost savings as well as climate gains,” says Dr Carlos Dora, WHO Coordinator for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.
Air pollution in Uganda is expected to worsen due to rapid urbanization.
It's time Uganda cleans its dirty air, as this could reduce death and disease burden from poor air quality, and save thousands of lives annually.
See also: Air Pollution in Kenya: Causes, Effects and Solutions
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Please leave your comments below, and let us know what you think!
1. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/272596/9789241565585-eng.pdf?ua=1 (Retrieved February, 2019) ↩
2. https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/02-05-2018-9-out-of-10-people-worldwide-breathe-polluted-air-but-more-countries-are-taking-action (Retrieved February, 2019)↩
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4515709/ (Retrieved February, 2019)↩
For Uganda’s case the numbers will continue to rise if energy poverty is not addressed. Like China and India, we are rushing to catch the industrialisation train and urbanisation bus but at what cost?