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CHVs guide on household air pollution launched

The government has launched the Facilitators’ Guide for Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) on Household Air Pollution (HAP).

This manual is expected to help in the understanding and strengthening of integration of air pollution in health policies and strategies.

In a speech read today during the launch on his behalf by the Head of Primary Health Care Division, Ministry of Health, Salim Hussein, the Acting Director General for Health Dr. Patrick Amoth said in Africa, HAP is among the leading contributors of burden of disease accounting to 18 per cent of all deaths.

He said, exposure to Air Pollution is responsible for a staggering number of preventable illnesses and deaths worldwide making it the single greatest environmental health risk.

“Worth to note is that air pollution exacerbates severity of illness and deaths from Covid-19 and is the leading risk factor for deaths from pneumonia across all age groups,” said Amoth.

In Kenya, Amoth added that it’s saddening that more than 80 per cent  of the population still depend on these ‘polluting’ fuels as primary source of cooking, something that worsen the HAP challenge to health, which is among the top ten risk factors for death.

“The annual deaths attributable to HAP in Kenya as per World Health Organization (WHO) estimates of 2016 were 15,140 while the 2020 estimate points to 23,000 deaths,” said Amoth.

He further noted that the developed facilitator’s guide will be used in capacity building and training of community health volunteers among other public health personnel in the preventive and promotive health space, including but not limited to the public health, health promotion, nutritionists, and public health nurses.

This, Amoth said is expected to further enhance the efforts by the government to increase access to essential primary healthcare services in line with the Primary Health Care Strategic Framework, 2019 -2024.

The Acting Director Head, Directorate of Public Health Dr. Francis Kuria said the launch themed Household Air Pollution: A Silent Threat to Health and Environment. Let’s Act Together to Save Lives, comes at a critical time of global health crises occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change crisis.

“Through the department of Public Health, the Ministry together with her strategic public and private partners in the HAP space, will continue to explore wide ranging approaches and solutions towards unlocking most of the barriers that bedevil the transition to clean energy and quality cooking appliances,” he said.

In his remarks, the Director Clean Air Africa, Prof. Dan Pope said more than 60 per cent of Sub-Saharan Africa will be without access to cooking fuel by 2030. He called upon the government to waive tax on Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) just like it did back in 2016.

“Some 80 per cent of households in Kenya rely on solid fuels for cooking with 8.1 million using wood and 1.3 million households using charcoal,” said Pope.

According to the WHO report on Opportunities for Transition to Clean Household energy in Kenya (2018), widespread use of polluting cook stoves causes almost 4 million premature deaths annually among children, adults and the very old from respiratory illness, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, as well as serious injuries from scalding, burns and poisoning.

By Catherine Muindi

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