India

Delhi’s Toxic Air Triggers Children’s Health and Education Crisis

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1 December – The toxic smog that is blanketing New Delhi is creating a catastrophic health and education crisis for children across the city, warns Save the Children.

The city recorded its worst November for air quality since 2016, with 11 days of "severe" pollution. This exposure can lead to an increased risk of lung damage, impaired lung growth, and pneumonia -- one of the biggest killers of children.

In mid-November, schools across New Delhi closed their doors indefinitely due to the worsening smog in the world's most polluted capital city. Schools began to reopen this week despite the city still facing 'very poor' air quality levels.

In the winter months, New Delhi's toxic smog is exacerbated by a spike in burning of farm stubble, coal-fired power, traffic fumes, as well as fireworks set off during the Diwali festival.

North India has pollution levels that are 10 times worse than those found anywhere else in the world, according to the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC). In 2020, pollution accounted for around 54,000 premature deaths in New Delhi -- and nearly 1.7m premature deaths in all of India in 2019.

Save the Children is calling for decision-makers to take all information that they receive about climate change into account, and reduce fossil fuels to safeguard our planet and the future of children everywhere. Governments should give more support to communities to cut pollution and fossil fuel use, and make sure that green and renewable energy alternatives are accessible for everyone.

Sudarshan Suchi, CEO of Save the Children India said:

"Delhi's poor air quality is putting children's lives in danger and education on hold. According to official data, New Delhi did not even have one "good" day of air quality in November. No child should be subjected to breathing such toxic air.

"It is appalling that the pollution was so bad children could not even go to school. Education is a fundamental human right and every child deserves to be able to go to school safely -- and not have their health put at risk in doing so.

"Air pollution, which is a consequence of the world's addiction to fossil fuels, and exacerbates the impacts of climate change, disproportionately affects children. It is one of the leading threats to child health, accounting for almost one in 10 deaths in children under five years of age in India.

"Delhi's pollution is causing a health and education crisis that needs immediate attention. It is imperative we rapidly phase out the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas which are the main drivers of the climate and pollution crisis, and move towards renewable and green energy as quickly as possible for current and future generations of children."

ENDS

Notes to the Editor