On a normal day during peak traffic hours, you literally smell carbon monoxide and other toxic gases from vehicle tail pipes on the streets of Kampala. It's in the same time frames that our children are either walking to or from school while some are rushed unsafely "packed" on smoking motorcycles through the congestion.
While there are many factors contributing to ambient air pollution in the country and Africa at large, vehicular emissions seem to be the largest problem yet it's an area where very minimal and slow action is being taken.
80% - 90% of vehicles imported to Africa are very old with an average of 10 years of age and in Uganda its about 15 years. Many of these come highly polluting, and while here they are poorly maintained in ways that farther compromise inbuilt emission control systems, most roads are unpaved and motorists themselves lack capacity for eco-friendly driving making vehicles total health and environmental disasters.
I am a father of 3 cute and intelligent sons, but 2 of them have already been in and out of hospitals countless times battling respiratory infections due to heavy exposure to polluted air at school, in the home area and elsewhere in between.
I also worry about their cognitive development being affected by air pollution.
Uganda loses an estimated 31,600 people every year to air pollution related illnesses and children are affected the most because their body systems are still under development, they breathe more rapidly than adults and so absorb more pollutants. They also live closer to the ground, where some pollutants reach peak concentrations – at a time when their brains and bodies are still developing.
As any parent who wants their children to live healthy, I initiated and now leading a community-driven program dubbed Autosafety - Uganda with aim of improving environmental health in Uganda at grassroots.
The Kampala Clean Air Drive is our first project; and probably the first of its kind in the sub-saharan Africa where we are taking a 3-stream approach to beating air pollution from a technical standpoint at community levels.
But as startup nonprofit tackling a major societal problem from a new approach, challenges are quite many but collectively we can bring change and save our children's lungs. More about our program https://autosafety-ug-org