Giving Care To Air

August 6-10 | Dhulikhel

9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air.[1] 133 in every 100,000 Nepali die because of it.[2]

For a cleaner and healthier air in Kathmandu, The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) and World Health Organization (WHO) – Nepal organized “Introductory Training on Health Impact Assessment/Health Economics and Data Analysis Workshop”, a five-day session with 35 representatives from different government agencies working on air quality and related experts, from national and international government organizations, academia, hospitals and representatives from Government of Maldives and WHO offices (HQ, SEARO, India, and Nepal country offices).

Dr. Madhav Prasad Lamsal, Deputy Health Administrator, MoHP, started the event by elaborating on building capacity at local and national level through the workshop, and supporting the implementation of case studies in cities and regions, particularly in Kathmandu, through Urban Health Initiative (UHI). UHI aims for cities to have the data, tools, capacity, and processes to include health in the development equation. “This workshop will help us quantify the burden of the diseases caused by air pollution. We are on the right track”, added Dr. Sushil Pyakurel, Chief Specialist, MoHP.

“UHI is currently implementing its first pilot city project in Accra, Ghana. It is a two-year project and Kathmandu is the second pilot city”, stated Thiago Herick de Sa, Technical Officer Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health Department, WHO. WHO UHI is implemented in response to WHA Resolution 68.8 from May 2015 with an aim to reduce deaths and diseases associated with air and climate pollutants and to enhance health co-benefits from policies and measures to tackle air pollution.

“After these discussions, we still need to maintain communication between us. It is crucial for a cleaner, better Kathmandu”, remarked Dr. Dipendra Raman Singh, Chief Curative Services Division, MoHP.

The workshop conducted trainings on health impact assessment and economic analysis tools, discussed and validated sector policy mapping activities, reviewed and validated the existing data for the different sectors that will be included in the health and economic impact analyses, provided support for preliminary analysis of the health and economic impacts of identified policy sectors against air pollution using WHO and other analytical tools, and evaluated an initial work plan for the stakeholder engagement and results workshop.

According to the WHO Global Air Quality Database of 2016, 21,908 Nepalese lost their lives because of ambient air pollution, and 23,397 were lost to household air pollution.[4] “While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted”, stated Sukriti Suvedi, National Professional Officer (Air Quality), Environmental Health, WHO – Nepal.

“It is imperative to take action now, and we are seeing more convictions from the government and various sectors, like transport, housing, and energy, to monitor and reduce air pollution”, addressed Dr. Md. Khurshid Alam Hyder, Public Health Administrator, WHO Nepal. WHO will provide coordination of individual project components and develop and maintain a work plan in close consultation with the ministry and other implementing partners such as ICIMOD and UN-Habitat.

“These tools, such as AirQ+, are of grave importance to Kathmandu, and even Maldives which is less polluted than Kathmandu”, continued Ibrahim Nishan Ahmed, Deputy Director General, Health Protection Agency, Ministry of Health from Maldives, “A lot of good policies can be initiated with the right data.”

Specific trainings on HIA and communication strategies were also provided by experts in the recognized four sectors. “Not only did we cover the objectives, but we also received a brilliant opportunity to network with worldly professionals to find solutions for a cleaner, better Kathmandu”, stated Shubha Laxmi Shrestha, Senior Officer, Alternate Energy Promotion Center, a local participant.

UHI will produce meaningful results, and inform model scenarios that will be used to identify viable options of sector policy change. “WHO and partner organizations will use this evidence to inform stakeholders and policy makers about selected interventions that mitigate air pollution”, stated Raja Ram Pote Shrestha, National Professional Officer, Environmental Health Programme, WHO - Nepal.