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Ethiopia is a landlocked country situated in the Horn of Africa and has a total area of more than 1 million square kilometres. A 2018 survey estimated the population to be around 109 million inhabitants.
In 2019, the figures showed a classification of “Moderate”, with a US AQI figure of 68 and an average PM2.5 number of 20.1 µg/m³ according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). This was an improvement over the previous years of 2017 and 2018 which were 26.9 µg/m³ and 27.1 µg/m³, respectively.
This 2019 figure gave Ethiopia the ranking of the 46th dirtiest city in the world.
Indoor air pollution (IAP) has been studied in Ethiopia more than outdoor air pollution has been although the basis of the evidence may be inadequate. Many studies base their findings on the type of fuel used for cooking and not on the levels of pollution within the household. The pollutants considered in indoor environments included the fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), Poly Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) and carbon monoxide (CO).
A cross-sectional study conducted in 2012 in 59 slum neighbourhoods in Addis Ababa measured the quality of indoor air over a 24 hour period. The studies reported a geometric average of 818 µg/m3, with the highest 24 hour average of PM2.5 concentration in homes mainly using solid fuel, followed by kerosene and clean fuel with averages of 1,134 µg/m3, 637 µg/m3, and 335 µg/m3, respectively. The study noted that the levels of suspended particulates, CO and PAH exceeded the respective limits set by the WHO guidelines. Sixty one per cent of the tested households were found to have levels in excess of 120µg/m3. It is the women and young girls who were exposed to these pollutants for more than 4 hours every day. This greatly exceeds the allowed exposure period of only one hour which is 28.8 µg/m3. The study noted that concentrations of respiratory suspended particulate matter in biomass-fuel-using-homes were 130 times higher than the air quality standards. This figure was noticeably higher in homes where there was no ventilation in the kitchen. Homes that had chimneys achieved a lower reading.
Air pollution in Ethiopia is caused mainly by vehicles, followed closely by industry, then by domestic emissions. Controlling air pollution has always been a challenge in Low and Middle-Income Countries and Ethiopia is no different.
The proliferation of long-term continuous monitoring systems and trained manpower in higher-income countries allow them to generate the required data and act upon it. This evidence is then collated by central regulatory bodies, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) who decide on world standards. The problem with LMIC settings is the virtual lack of monitoring equipment of any type.
Air pollution in these countries is characterised by the burning of biomass in household stoves and the use of adulterated liquid fuels. Using such fuels in the home affects women and children as they are the ones breathing in the polluted air. As a result of breathing in this polluted air from the combustion of organic matter, it is estimated that it claims the lives of 50,000 people, annually, and adds 5 per cent to the health burden of disease.
The growing problem of motor vehicle usage and industrialisation adds to the dirty air. Whilst this is undeniable, the lack of real data is in itself causing a problem. The lack of air quality data makes policy decisions in LMIC countries heavily dependent on potentially irrelevant evidence generated from non-LMIC settings. The governments have no other option than to use what data they have available, even though it might have zero significance in their settings. The lack of primary data in sub-Saharan Africa may even make the global estimations for this area inaccurate.
Key transport-related air quality challenges are as follows: - the rapid increase in vehicle numbers in major cities, driven by increased urban population, economic development and urbanisation, old vehicles, poor maintenance and inefficient public transport are factors driving up emissions in the transport sector. It is estimated that more than 50 per cent of Ethiopia’s vehicle are more than 15 years old. Vehicles of that vintage are not fitted with the latest technology which greatly reduces harmful emissions. There is no age restriction on all imported motorcycles.
Another pilot study conducted in a cross-section of homes in Addis Ababa focused on inhaling the smoke of roasted coffee beans during a traditional coffee ceremony. The study showed high PM2.5 and PM10 exposure, with an average concentration of >1000 µg/m3. The traditional coffee ceremony, which often involves inhaling the smoke of roasted coffee beans, is a short but recurring household activity in Addis Ababa. It is often performed up to three times each day.
According to the 2011 Welfare Monitoring Survey, biomass fuel is used in 95% of Ethiopian households. 85 per cent of these homes use wood for cooking. A difference was noted, however between rural (90%) and urban (54%) areas which use wood as the primary source of cooking. Charcoal is used in urban areas as the second most (18%) common fuel for cooking compared to its almost negligible use in rural areas (0.2%). The use of cleaner fuels such as kerosene, LPG, and electricity for cooking is almost non-existent in rural areas. However, kerosene (5%) and gas/electricity (7.7%) are used in smaller proportions for cooking. Kerosene is used for lighting by a majority (88%) of the households in rural areas while only 64% used it in urban settings. Many rural areas are not connected to the national electricity supply, so they have no choice but to use kerosene.
In Addis Ababa, households use three times more clean energy for cooking when compared to rural areas. The access to electricity (88%) among urban dwellers is very high compared to their (4.9%) rural counterparts.
A study conducted in Addis Ababa and Kebribeyah compared levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and carbon monoxide (CO) before and after an intervention that substituted ethanol for kerosene as a fuel source. In Addis Ababa reductions in the levels of PM2.5 were seen to be 64 per cent. It was a similar reduction in carbon monoxide, too. With levels dropping by 76 per cent. In Kebribeyah, there was a noticeable reduction in average PM2.5 and concentrations of carbon monoxide of 94 per cent and 72 per cent, respectively.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) was the only pollutant tracked continuously over a 24 hour period. Measurements were collated every three months for over two years on a large sample of almost 3,300 rural households that have children under the age of 5 years. The average annual 24-hour concentration was found to be 97µg/m3. This is twice as high as the WHO recommended guidelines for average annual 24-hour concentration. This indicates that children and caretakers, mostly mothers and grandmothers, are exposed to high concentrations of indoor air pollution in rural Ethiopia.
Another study carried out in 54 Addis Ababa homes reported that the 8-hour average carbon monoxide (CO) concentration was 16 ppm (parts per million). This exceeds the US EPA’s 8-hr average CO level of 9 ppm in 48% of the households.
Although high levels of carbon monoxide (CO) in kitchens was reported in the study carried out in rural Tigray, a lower average concentration (44ppm) was also noted and very low concentrations (5 ppm) were recorded in homes that have ventilated kitchens with chimneys. When dung is used as a fuel source, the carbon monoxide (CO) concentration could exceed 4000 ppm due to low energy efficiency.
A study conducted in Addis Ababa found that PM10 concentrations measured in urban areas in the dry months of January and February were higher (< 100 µg/m3) than those in suburban areas (40 µg/m3) at the same time of year. The PM10 particulate, lead (Pb), concentrations in all of the samples collected for the study were < 0.1 µg/m3. This finding was reported shortly after the government banned importing leaded gasoline.
Due to the high concentration of internal air pollution in Ethiopia, the national estimates of the burden of diseases such as lower respiratory infection and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases is high. According to a report by the Ministry of Health, 1,262,908 (5%) cases of acute upper respiratory infections and 5 per cent of pneumonia cases (7% of total hospital admissions) that might be linked to air pollution occurred in 2010/11. A further 2 per cent of admissions were due to tuberculosis which was said to be due to the poor air quality. The number of patients seeking hospital treatment as an out-patient is very high amongst children under 5 years. Pneumonia was the main reason for those seeking help and the second greatest cause of death. In 2010-2011 pneumonia accounted for 23 per cent of hospital admissions for the under-fives and accounted for 13 per cent of their deaths.
Tuberculosis, respiratory tract infections and asthma accounted for about 17 per cent of all deaths in Addis Ababa, according to a survey conducted in 2006/7. All are diseases which may have a direct link with poor air quality.
A study carried out in Jimma studied the effects of living near busy highways on respiratory symptoms and allergic sensitisation. Traffic volume and distance of the household location from the nearest main roads were considered as factors in the assessment of the effects of this type of exposure. The study reported a significant relation among those living within a 150 m distance from the road, and those who lived in a more remote location. This shows an increased risk in the prevalence of wheezing among the residents considered in the study.
Ethiopia already has almost 1000 kilometres of electrified rail tracks and is hoping to extend this network in the future. It is hoped that another 5000 kilometres will eventually be added.
Most of Ethiopia’s industry is classed as being agro-based as it contributes to well over 50 per cent of the country’s GDP. Due to its location, it experiences favourable weather conditions which are ideal to support its agricultural businesses. Items such as beverages, livestock products which include eggs, milk and meat, textiles and leather. It also produces apparel leather good and processed meat products both for the home and export markets. Ethiopia’s cash crop industry accounts for approximately 60 per cent of employment for its workers. The products vary from coffee to spices, beeswax to honey, fruit, flowers and vegetables to name but a few. Ethiopian coffee is well-known and traded throughout the world and its production provides employment for over 15 million workers. There are plans to increase production to over US$2 billion by 2020.
Ethiopia has a growing construction industry which shows an 11.6 per cent annual rate of growth. Both residential and non-residential continue to grow thus creating more employment. The industry has been able to build low-cost homes for the benefit of low-income households.
Future partnerships with European and Chinese investors are already at the planning stage. Ethiopia already has the most prominent manufacturing park in Africa the "Hawassa Industrial Park". The park has numerous co-related business there including apparel manufacturing and textile production.
Even though there are lots of factories on these industrial estates, many of them use clean energy as their fuel source so do not contribute to air pollution in any significant amount.
Havinginvested heavily in the textile production, Ethiopia is now one of the few successful African countries when it comes to textile and garment production. Environmental sustainability is therefore an important aspect of their work. In order to preserve their relative clean environment, they strive to use natural additives and hand-work against energy thirsty machinery, without compromising on productivity. Natural dyeing processes have been utilised which use pigments extracted from the soil to give a safe yet long-lasting colour to their natural fabrics.