New Delhi: Even as Delhi and NCR reel under toxic air, a World Health Organisation (WHO) report has revealed that the entire country has let its children down. In its report, WHO has revealed that in 2016, toxic air caused the premature deaths of close to 1,10,000 children in the country, the highest number of deaths of children under five years of age.  This was attributed to their exposure to ambient air pollution of particulate matter (PM) 2.5. Air pollution accounted for more child deaths in India than in any of the neighbouring countries, including China. Myanmar and Pakistan had the highest death rate among these countries, in both age groups. (Also read: Air Pollution Can Increase Risk of Stroke in Youngsters)

On the eve of the first  conference on air pollution and health, WHO released the report on Monday which said 60,987 children of under five years of age in India died because of the noxious air followed by Nigeria with 47,674
deaths, Pakistan with 21,136 deaths and Democratic Republic of Congo with 12,890 deaths. Then, in India, the number of girls in this age bracket, of under five years, dying due to pollution was more than that of boys. About 32,889 girls died, compared to 28,097 boys in 2016, said the report.

Between five and 14 years, 4,360 children died due to ambient air pollution in 2016. In all, over 1 lakh children, up to 14 years of age, died in India due to both ambient and household pollution of PM 2.5 in 2016.  Titled ‘Air Pollution and Child Health – Prescribing clean air’, the report sounds caution against the rising levels of pollution causing diseases as well as deaths.

Accounting for a staggering 25 % of global deaths, over 2 million occur prematurely in India due to pollution. Across the globe, every day around 93% of children under the age of 15 years (1.8 billion children) breathe polluted air that puts their health and development at risk. According to WHO, in 2016, almost 6,00,000 children died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air.

The report also highlights the impact of pollution on pregnant women and children. Pregnant women, exposed to polluted air, are more likely to give birth prematurely.