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Editorial: Air pollution deadlier than war

Air quality levels have worsened in Afghanistan, creating public outcry with dire consequences for large swaths of society. The extreme air pollution episodes affect millions of people in Kabul; the authorities must take every available step to tackle air pollution in Kabul, the capital city, which may be even deadlier than the 18-year-old war. There are no official statistics on how many Afghans die of pollution-related illnesses, but the research group State of Global Air said more than 26,000 deaths could be attributed to air pollution in 2017, compared to 3,483 civilians killed that year in the war. The biggest problem and cause behind the air pollution is harsh winter and poverty of Afghans who can’t offer to buy woods to make their homes warm. Over 50 percent of Afghans are living under poverty line. Kabul is a city of more than five million citizens and many of them don’t have jobs, and the winter is coming. Their outlet is to burn anything they find to decrease the temperature of winter. They burn coal, garbage, plastic and rubber to heat their homes in the bitter cold. Due to decades of war that have wrecked the city’s infrastructure and cased waves of displaced people is another problem. Many families flee from their homes in provinces in Kabul to escape the war, but they can’t escape another tragedy, which is harsh winter and air pollution. Unfortunately, every year many people, including children and women are dying not because of violence or bombings, but from air pollution. In fact, behind the dark curtain of a raging insurgency by different terrorist groups, Afghans are facing another deadly battle which against deteriorating air quality. Nitrogen dioxide NO2 and Sulphur dioxide SO2 amongst other pollutants are not less dangerous than the deadly bombings. Moreover, breathing in dirty air not only causes and exacerbates asthma, but it can also lead to other respiratory conditions, such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and lung cancer. Kabul has become one of the most polluted cities in the world. This has to be changed, and the related organizations must find out ways, how they can contribute to prevent, control and reduce air pollution.

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