Pollution campaigners rally to Child Health Initiative at global air quality forum
The invisible impact on child health of poor air quality caused by motor vehicle emissions has been highlighted at the global ‘Better Air Quality’ gathering in Korea.
The FIA Foundation presented the Global Initiative for Child Health and Mobility to leaders, experts, and policy-makers from around the world on August 31, 2016 at the 17th International Union of Air Pollution Prevention and Environmental Protection Associations (IUAPPA) World Clean Air Congress and 9th Clean Air Asia Better Air Quality conference in Busan, South Korea.
The conference provided a unique opportunity to begin a dialogue with leading experts and decision-makers on best practices, research, and gaps in evidence regarding air quality on the school journey and in school zones. A right to clean air and a healthy environment is one of the three pillars of the new Initiative, along with safe, accessible low carbon mobility, and a journey to school free from traffic danger.
The Initiative focuses on the daily commute to and from school as a time when many children are exposed to dangers on the roads. “Although road crashes are the leading killer of youth ages 15-29, roads also harbor an invisible killer – air pollution. Too many kids can’t play outside because of poor air quality, and can’t focus in school because of bad asthma. They’re more vulnerable because their lungs are still developing, causing them to suffer for the rest of their lives,” said FIA Foundation US Manager, Natalie Draisin.
The Foundation-hosted partnership between UNEP, UNICEF, Save the Children, the Overseas Development Institute, and the World Resources Institute promotes policies for clean air, sustainable transportation, road safety, clean fuels and vehicles, and equitable urban development. Its latest report with UNICEF, Rights of Way, focuses on child road traffic injuries in low income areas. At the conference, the FIA Foundation expressed interest in publishing similar work about the disproportionate effect of poor air quality on children in low-income areas, the benefits of prioritising schools in air quality initiatives, and the relationship between clean air for children, equity and access.
The link between children, air quality, and equity has long been recognized in international agendas, but more research, evidence, and best practices are needed to protect children’s needs and rights. The inclusion of air quality in the Sustainable Development Goals and upcoming UN Habitat III ‘New Urban Agenda’ provides new momentum to pursue such work. In response, the Global Initiative for Child Health and Mobility aims to start a dialogue between experts, and officials who can implement their knowledge to make a sustainable impact.
The event drew interest and support from leaders globally, who recognised that we cannot act according to the timelines of international agendas, but must start prioritising air quality in school zones today. Among them was Secretary to the Government of India, Inter-State Council Secretariat, Ministry of Home Affairs, Naini Jayaseelan. Representatives from the country shared their impressive efforts to improve air quality monitoring around schools. Other representation at the event included the Ministry of Environment and Energy of the Maldives, UNEP, CAI Asia, University of Malaysia, Asian Institute of Technology, ICLEI, Centre for Science and Environment, Asian Development Bank, Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs of Sri Lanka, and partners UNEP and WRI. At its conclusion, participants were eager to continue the conversation, share experiences, and discuss further efforts.
Maria Glynda Bathan-Baterina, Deputy Executive Director of Clean Air Asia, echoed the support from the many countries in attendance. “Today, Clean Air Asia would like to announce its full support for this important initiative. We believe strongly in the power of this effort, and the need to put our children first,” she said. Such support is key to securing the political will necessary to deliver practical and cost-effective solutions. “We need to convince governments to intervene at this stage of life. It’s their chance to affect children’s outcomes for the next 60-70 years – really, forever. That’s why, if you want to leave the most positive impact on current and future populations, you have to start with children,” Draisin concluded.
The FIA Foundation would like to thank the participants, and Clean Air Asia for its dedication to this effort and support in hosting this event. More information about the Global Initiative for Child Health and Mobility is available at childhealthinitative.org, which features a video about the effort that was shared at the conference, on Twitter @childhealthGI, and at firstname.lastname@example.org