Remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission Rolf Olson
Regional Training to Improve Air Quality in West Africa
Nana Aba Appiah Amfo – Vice Chancellor of University of Ghana
Desmond Appiah – Ghana lead of Clean Air Fund
Thank you for joining me here today as we visit with some of the brightest and most committed professionals in Ghana and in the region working to improve air quality.
As this event falls during Harmattan season – when the air quality index is frequently classified as “unhealthy,” the need for training, capacity building, and innovative solutions to air quality concerns is particularly acute.
The United States is proud to fund this critical need across West Africa in partnership with Columbia University and the University of Ghana. In an effort to address the dangers of climate change and increase our joint capacity to combat environmental degradation, the United States also funds media training for journalists to cover “crimes against nature” and investigate the economic and societal dangers beyond the environment.
Our efforts to promote economic growth are also designed to do so in an environmentally sustainable way that promotes long term trade and investment.
Our countries’ collective environmental concerns served as a catalyst for the Megacities Partnership between policy makers in Ghana and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. This partnership led to the development of the first Accra Air Quality Management Plan – a comprehensive action plan to address air quality and improve public health in this city.
The World Health Organization WHO estimates that air pollution accounted for around 7 million deaths, or over 10% of worldwide deaths. In Ghana alone 28,000 Ghanaians die annually prematurely due to air pollution. The World Bank found that air pollution cost the world economy over $5 trillion in economic welfare losses.
The United States is directly addressing the greatest threat for many families – cooking with wood and charcoal. Burning solid fuels indoors releases dangerous particulate matter and toxic pollutants leading to air pollution levels that are often 20 times greater than the WHO air quality guidelines. Sadly, this type of air pollution causes increased health risks disproportionately impacting women and girls.
Through funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, household energy and clean cookstove research aims to reduce household air pollution generated from cooking.
These improved health outcomes will reduce strain on Ghana’s health system, reduce missed workdays due to illness, reduce absenteeism from school for children, and stabilize income for Ghanaian families and businesses.
Moreover, our desire to share and build upon our collective knowledge led to the Air Quality monitoring with the BAM-1020 monitor at the US Embassy compound with data available free online to the public at airnow.gov.
Just last week, the U.S. government donated 15 Quant-AQ PM2.5 monitors to be deployed throughout Accra and beyond. These instruments are equipped with solar panels and will stream data in real-time to the cloud, also for sharing with the public so Ghanaians may know the air they are breathing. We are likewise supporting the improvement of low-cost sensors by providing a reference location at the U.S. Embassy compound.
I do not need to remind you all that when it comes to air quality, information is power. This seminar will help empower each of you – local and regional decision makers – to gather, monitor, and analyze air quality data and inform policy. If done well, we can improve the air we breathe and leave a healthier planet behind us for future generations.