UPDATES WITH REPORT INTO POLLUTION DEATHS
By Magdalene Mukami
NAIROBI, Kenya (AA) – The second edition of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) opened in Kenya on Monday, bringing ministers from 193 nations to the East African country.
A dramatic report from the gathering – 'Healthy Environment Healthy People' – claims that pollution and land degradation cause 234 times more premature deaths than those which occur in conflicts annually.
Jacqueline McGlade, United Nations Environment Programme chief scientist, told Anadolu Agency that in Kenya thousands of people die from inhaling toxic smoke from fuel they use for cooking.
“It is unbelievable the extent to which people are living in conditions where they are inhaling, every day, vast quantities of smoke just because of fuel for cooking and other uses; there is an environmental side of it and a human aspect,” McGlade said.
“This is the moment when ministers of the environment need to grapple and engage with the health agenda; air quality is still our number-one killer. Indoor air pollution has not yet been conquered," she added.
According to the report, in 2012 alone there were 12.6 million deaths attributable to worsening environmental conditions, with the most recorded deaths being in South-East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean region.
Researchers say key factors that lead to environmental degradation include air pollution, which kills seven million people every year, a lack of access to clean water which kills 842,000 people annually, chemical exposure and natural disasters.
Speaking during the opening ceremony of the conference on Monday, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said: "There will be many things happening throughout the week, including many new report launches on matters that either affect our environment, directly or indirectly.
“For example, a new report on the growing danger from plastic in our oceans," Achim said.
Edgar Gutierrez Espeleta, Costa Rica’s environment minister, told reporters that top of his agenda will be discussions on alleviating hardship brought on by carbon emissions from the extensive use of charcoal used by many people in Kenya and Costa Rica.
"It is up to us … to come to this assembly to talk to each other to see how we can put an agenda that can help us use the budget that is available so that we can improve the lives of our people in such areas," he said.
The one-week conference has attracted over 2,000 participants.