Rabat – The number of environmental pollution-induced deaths of children under five years old in Morocco is the highest in North Africa.
According to two World Health Organization (WHO) studies published Monday, environmental pollution is responsible for more than 1 in 4 deaths of children under the age of five. Further, in 2012 95 children per 100,000 inhabitants died because of environmental pollution against 45 in Tunisia, 52 in Algeria, 35 in Libya and 49 in Egypt.
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 1 month to 5 years – diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia – are preventable by interventions known to reduce environmental risks, such as access to safe water and clean cooking fuels.
In 2015, 77 percent of the Moroccan population had access to improved sanitation facilities, and 85 percent had the use of improved drinking water sources. These rates put Morocco second to last in North African countries in terms of access to safe water and adequate sanitation.
“A polluted environment is a deadly one – particularly for young children,” says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.”
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.
According to this report, every year 570,000 children under 5 years die from respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution, and secondhand smoke.
Around the world, environmental risks such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, passive smoking, unsafe water, lack of sanitation and inadequate hygiene, lead to the yearly death of 1.7 million children under five years, according to the WHO.