The human and economic cost of air pollution and degraded seas and coastlines is immense, estimated to be more than 3 percent of GDP in some countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), according to a new World Bank report issued on Monday.

“Polluted skies and seas are costly to the health, social and economic wellbeing of millions of people in the Middle East and North Africa region,” said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa. “As countries recover from COVID-19, there is an opportunity to change course and choose a greener, bluer and more sustainable growth path that has fewer emissions and less environmental degradation,” he added.

Air pollution levels in MENA’s largest cities are among the highest in the world, with the average urban resident breathing in air that exceeds by more than 10 times the level of pollutants considered safe by the WHO, the report said.

Air pollution causes about 270,000 deaths a year (more than deaths from traffic accidents, diabetes, malaria TB, HIV/AIDS and acute hepatitis combined) and the average MENA resident is ill at least 60 days in his/her lifetime due to exposure to elevated air pollution levels, it made clear. The economic costs of air pollution are immense – around USD 141 billion per year, or 2 percent of regional GDP, it stated. -KUNA

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