Air pollution kills 5,000 in Afghanistan in a year

KABUL (Tolo News): As many as 5,000 people have lost their lives due to air pollution-related diseases in the country in 2020–2,900 of them due to respiratory diseases and 2,073 people due to heart diseases, according to figures by the Ministry of Public Health.

Air pollution remains a big challenge for those living in cities, especially Kabul, where one government-owned hospital, the Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital, has over 100 patients on a daily basis who suffer from air pollution-related diseases, based on figures provided by doctors. Doctors said air pollution is more threatening than the war that takes the lives of nearly 3,000 civilians a year in the country.

“The air pollution must reduce so that we prevent the mortality rate of air pollution-related diseases,” said Masooma Jafari, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Public Health. Zainab, 50, said she is suffering from heart disease and is under treatment at Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital in Kabul for the last 10 days. She said doctors have told her that her disease is due to the use of coal and plastic for warming their house.

“I think my illness is due to inhaling the smoke of plastic and waste,” said Zainab, a patient. “I have asthma. My heart was healthy previously, but I am not feeling good now,” said Simagul, a patient. Doctors at Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital said that they have about 300 patients on a daily basis who are suffering from pollution-related diseases, including heart diseases and respiratory problems.

“Some patients have asthma that is intensified by other diseases. The mortality rate is high and it increases during winter,” said Humayun Stanekzai, a doctor. Khan Mohammad, a vendor in Kabul, said he faces trouble in breathing every winter as the use of coal and low-quality fuel by residents increases.

The National Environmental Protecting Authority said the decades of war in the country has affected the efforts to address the challenge of air pollution, especially in Kabul, a city that hosts an estimated six million population. “It is impossible in the short term to overcome air pollution because people have limited access to electricity as well as liquid gas,” said Nek Mohammad, head of the evaluation department of the authority.