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Indoor air pollution and child health in Pakistan: report of a seminar held at the Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan, 29 September 2005.
Geneva, Switzerland, World Health Organization [WHO], 2006. 29 p.Indoor air pollution (IAP) is one of the major risk factors for pneumonia related morbidity and death in children world-wide. It is also associated with other adverse health outcomes in children such as low birth weight and chronic bronchitis, and with lung cancer, cataract and possibly cardiovascular disease in adults. Biomass fuel (wood, crop residues, animal dung) which is being used in four fifths of all households in Pakistan is the major source of IAP when it is burned for cooking, space heating and lighting homes. Biomass is mostly burned in inefficient three-stone stoves leading to incomplete combustion and high levels of indoor air concentration of smoke. There is a dearth of scientific studies in Pakistan to relate IAP to health effects; consequently IAP is not a recognized environmental hazard at policy level. A one day seminar was held at The Aga Khan University (AKU), Karachi, to raise awareness of household energy issues, indoor air pollution and its effect on child health. Participants discussed global evidence regarding health impacts of IAP, the role of energy utilization in alleviation of poverty, and possible interventions to improve child health outcomes in the context of sustainable development. The seminar was attended by over 400 participants from a wide range of organizations including NGOs involved with dissemination of fuel efficient stoves and health education, policy makers, international agencies and funding bodies. Presentations ranged from topics related to the situation of indoor air pollution and household energy issues globally and in Pakistan, to local initiatives such as fuel-efficient stoves and promotion of liquefied petroleum gas. Fuel-efficient stoves and cooking devices used by various non-governmental organizations in Pakistan were displayed in a related exhibition. During the final session, participants developed follow-up action points to raise awareness about indoor air pollution in Pakistan and develop locally acceptable and sustainable solutions. The event was covered in the press, television and radio. The seminar was followed by a three day workshop for 20 participants from selected NGOs and academic institutions to develop proposals for research projects for selected sites to document the impact of interventions on air pollution on child health and social and economic circumstances of households. (excerpt)