Forest fire haze causes breathing problems to over 900,000 Indonesians

VNA
The number of Indonesians suffering respiratory problems or ISPA caused by smoke from forest and peatland fires blanketing parts of Borneo and Sumatra in the past few months has reached over 919,000, according to Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Agus Wibowo.

Indonesian people at an anti-haze centre in Riau province on September 20 (Photo: AFP/VNA)

Indonesian people at an anti-haze centre in Riau province on September 20 (Photo: AFP/VNA)

Data from the country’s Health Ministry as of September 23 showed that people suffering from ISPA amounted to 919,516 in six provinces, Agus told a press conference in East Jakarta on September 23.

The highest number of residents with haze-related illness were found in South Sumatra (291,807), followed by Riau (nearly 267,000), West Kalimantan (nearly 181,000), South Kalimantan (67,293), Jambi (63,554), and Central Kalimantan (40,374), he added.

The government has distributed 73,000 respiratory masks to affected localities, and established several posts in a number of areas so that people can check on their health and ask for masks, medicines and supplementary foods for babies and pregnant women.

According to the United Nations, Indonesian forest fires are putting nearly 10 million children at risk from air pollution. The warning was given after scientists said the blazes were releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases. 

The United Nations Children’s Fund said almost 10 million people under 18 live in the areas worst affected by fires on Indonesia’s Sumatra island and the country’s part of Borneo island. Small children are especially vulnerable due to underdeveloped immune systems while babies born to mothers exposed to pollution during pregnancy may have low birth weights and be delivered early. 

Indonesia has deployed some 10,000 soldiers, policemen and BNPB staff as well as tens of helicopters for water bombing to fight forest fires in the past two months.

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