The World Health Organisation (WHO) on 6 March 2017 announced that more than 1 in 4 deaths of children under 5 years of age are attributable to unhealthy environments. The revelations were made by the agency in its two new reports, titled Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children’s Health and the Environment and Don’t pollute my future! The impact of the environment on children’s health.
The WHO went on to state that indoor and outdoor air pollution, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, second-hand smoke and inadequate hygiene take the lives of 1.7 million children under 5 years. Diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia are the most common causes of death among children aged 1 month to 5 years. The reports state that these causes are preventable access to safe water and clean cooking fuels.
Infants and pre-schoolers have an increased risk of pneumonia in childhood, and a lifelong increased risk of chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma, when they are exposed to indoor and outdoor air pollution and second-hand smoke. Every year, 570000 children under 5 years die from respiratory infections attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution and second-hand smoke.
Each year, 270000 children die during their first month of life from conditions, including prematurity. These conditions can be easily prevented through sanitation, hygiene in health facilities, access to clean water and reducing air pollution. Malaria is responsible for 200000 deaths of child under 5 years annually. These deaths could be prevented through environmental actions, like reducing breeding sites of mosquitoes or covering drinking-water storage.
Every year, 361000 child under 5 years die due to diarrhoea, as a result of poor access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene. 200000 child under 5 years die each year from unintentional injuries attributable to the environment, such as poisoning, falls and drowning.