“Air pollution has become a child health crisis in Ulaanbaatar, putting every child and pregnancy at risk. The risks include stillbirth, preterm birth, lower birth weight, pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma and death. It is a real threat to Mongolia’s human capital,” remarked UNICEF Mongolia Representative Alex Heikens.
Report on Mongolia's air pollution crisis released
The report has estimated how much it costs and how much it will cost health providers to treat air pollution induced diseases in Ulaanbaatar provided the Government of Mongolia does not take immediate action to minimise the current levels of air pollution.
According to the report, incidences of respiratory diseases in Ulaanbaatar alarmingly increased including a 2.7-fold increase in respiratory infections per 10,000 population in the last 10 years. Pneumonia is now the second leading cause for under-five child mortality in the country. Children living in a highly polluted district of central Ulaanbaatar were found to have 40 percent lower lung function than children living in a rural area. If the GoM does not take immediate action to address air pollution, the economic burden of air pollution on Ulaanbaatar’s health services related to children aged 0–18 years is expected to total MNT 24.8 billion (USD 9.8 million) by 2025. When considering the entire population of Ulaanbaatar, including adults, the annual cost of inaction against air pollution is about MNT 7.2 billion (USD 2.4 million) on average from 2021 onwards.
In terms of immediate child health measures to consider, the report recommends the following in summary:
- Develop and implement a multiyear public outreach campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of exposure to air pollution (with a focus on pregnant women and young children) and measures people can take to protect their health and reduce air pollution. This should also include further strengthening the evidence base around child health, pregnancy results and air pollution.
- Vaccinate all new-born children in Ulaanbaatar with 13-valent PCV and include the vaccine in the national immunization schedule of Mongolia and the relevant budget for the National Immunisation Programme budget of the Ministry of Health.
- Develop and implement a comprehensive indoor air quality management approach for kindergartens, schools and hospitals through a combination of technical and behavior change interventions.
- Develop an advisory note on measures people can take to reduce exposure to air pollution outside, including the proper use of good quality and well-fitted masks; consider the provision of such masks free of charge to the most vulnerable in the communities that are faced with the highest levels of air pollution.