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National Environment Trust Fund in partnership with key stakeholder is set to hold a National Conference on Energy, Air Quality and Health Nexus from September 10 to 11, 2020. The environment and its condition has a huge influence on human health. The increasing deterioration of environment and the impacts of climate change are therefore affecting the health and well-being of people, especially in developing countries and growing cities. Most importantly, pollution (water, air, soil and chemical) is recognized as the biggest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world and disproportionately kills the poor and the vulnerable.
The Global Burden of Disease 2013 study indicated that air pollution is the fourth leading risk factor for death globally. According to the World Health organization, an estimate of seven (7) million premature deaths occurred globally in 2012 with the largest share being in the Sub-Saharan Africa. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that both indoor and outdoor air pollution causes about 600,000 deaths in African every year. Deaths associated with outdoor air pollution alone increased from 164,000 in 1990 to 258,000 in 2017 which is a growth of almost 60%. These statistics suggest that air pollution is now a growing challenge not only for Africa but globally.
According to the WHO report on Global Burden of disease, air pollution is associated with diseases such as ischemic heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer and acute lower respiratory infections. Interestingly, it has been recently noted that individuals with underlying conditions such as lung disease, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, liver diseases and people at old age above
65yrs are more likely to experience severe illness or even death from COVID-19. Furthermore, studies have also shown that short-term exposure to higher concentrations of PM2.5, PM10, CO, NO2 and O3 is associated with an increased risk of COVID-19 infection.
Energy production and use particularly from unregulated, poorly regulated or inefficient fuel combustion is one of the major drivers of air pollution.6 Access to clean energy remains a challenge in Kenya where majority of the population still rely on kerosene for lighting and traditional fuels and cooking appliances such firewood, crop residues, charcoal, dried cow dung, three stones and non-insulated metallic stoves for cooking and heating. This leads to continued release of pollutants such as particulate matter, NOx, SOx GHGs to the atmosphere which is detrimental to environment, leading to illnesses and premature deaths among humans.
The nexus between energy, air quality and health is therefore a very critical reality that is ripe for conversation within research, policy and practice spaces and at global, regional, national and local levels.
This national conference on the nexus of energy, air pollution and health is intended to trigger and drive the dialogue and devise policy, strategic and technical approaches that would promote sustainable clean energy solutions and reduce air pollution in Kenya. The conference will convene key stakeholders in energy, health and environment sectors including national government institutions, county governments, multi-lateral organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Academia, research institutions, civil organizations and the private sector with Kenya.