Beat NCDs: Rwanda Celebrates First Car-Free Day, While Kenya Plans Air Pollution Sensors

Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, celebrated its first car-free day today, while a Kenyan telecom company was reported to have launched a major initiative to install 3,000 low-cost air pollution sensors around the country, in response to growing fears about air pollution’s health impacts.

Liquid Telecom Kenya was quoted in the media outlet All Africa saying it was partnering with Africa’s largest non-profit civic technology network Code for Africa (CfA) to install air quality sensors at 3,000 sites across the country, after piloting 60 such sensors in Nairobi. According to the latest WHO data, about 19,000 Kenyans a year die from air pollution, making it one of the largest risks to health.

WHO’s Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti was cited in the media report as saying that health costs of air pollution are often ignored, even though the World Bank has said that air pollution-related diseases were estimated to have cost Sub-Saharan Africa 3.8 per cent of gross domestic product growth in 2013, or around $114bn. Moeti made the comments in an Op-Ed in the Financial Times in November 2018.

In Rwanda, meanwhile, Kigali held its first ever car-free day. With traffic silenced, local residents took to the streets on foot en masse, while local health authorities underlined the importance of physical activity to good health. WHO’s Rwanda Office filmed messaging from government, WHO and health authorities. Link here to video of WHORwanda Car-Free Day.

The events follow on recent statements by WHO’s Africa Region countries saying that more attention needs to be paid to the growing death toll from air pollution as well as non-communicable diseases (NCDs). NCDs are often linked both to air pollution, as well as to physical inactivity and unhealthy diets. The statements were made at the WHO Executive Board meetings held from 24 January-1 February.


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