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New study on air pollution in Mongolia highlights health crisis

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Air pollution has become a child health crisis in Ulaanbaatar, putting every child and pregnancy at risk.

On 30 January 2018 at 5am, air pollution in Ulaanbaatar reached a level 133 times the maximum daily average recommended as safe by the World Health Organization. The risks include stillbirth, preterm birth, lower birth weight, pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, and death. There is an urgent need to take immediate action to limit the number of smog-related health problems, particularly among children. These are among the findings in a new report written by health and public financial management consultants from Oxford Policy Management (OPM), commissioned by UNICEF Mongolia and the Mongolian National Center for Public Health.

The overall purpose of the study was to collect overall evidence to support policy for reducing or eliminating respiratory diseases caused by air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, through coherent policy commitment. OPM conducted a public expenditure and institutional analysis, determining the impact of air pollution on child health in Ulaanbaatar, as well as an assessment of the costs of inaction. These are expected to increase by a third by 2025, costing health providers at least MNT 4.8 billion (approximately £1.4 million) extra per year.

The resulting report (‘Mongolia’s air pollution crisis: A call to action to protect children’s health’) provides recommendations for the Government of Mongolia and Municipality of Ulaanbaatar on budget interventions and public financial management arrangements to significantly decrease respiratory diseases caused by air pollution amongst children.

“Reducing air pollution levels in Ulaanbaatar is the only long-term, sustainable solution to protect children’s health,” states one of the report’s authors, OPM consultant Rogerio de Sa, “But the report also recommends short-term interventions such as the Pneumococcal Vaccine, improving air quality in indoor public facilities for children, and a sustained campaign of public education and outreach.”

UNICEF has already expressed interest in seeking funding to implement its recommendations, and the findings of the study have been covered by Reuters and Relief Web.