You will now be getting real time information on the quality of air around Nairobi City following the installation of digital billboards at key points in the capital.

Already, four digital billboards have been set up on at the city centre on Moi Avenue, and University Way as well as on Mbagathi Way and at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to stream information on air quality to the public.

The Nairobi air quality awareness initiative is a collaboration between the UN, the private sector, academia, non-governmental and local governmental organizations and is expected to accelerate efforts to change how transport, waste management services are managed.

The project is an initiative of UN Environment Programme (UNEP), in collaboration with IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company, telco Safaricom, Alpha and Jam Ltd and Metropolitan Star Lite Ltd, as well as Out Of Home media.

Most residents of the city do not have access to real-time air quality data and consequently, do not know if the air they breathe is harmful.

The billboards will be sharing up-to-the-minute data on air quality for some of the most harmful type of air pollution known as particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5).

PM2.5 are known to cause serious health issues, including asthma, lung cancer, and heart disease. Exposure to PM2.5 has also been associated with low birth weight, acute respiratory infections as well as stroke.

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“Real time air quality monitoring will help us with the issuance of health advisories as well as for formulation of smart traffic controls that minimize congestion,” said Lawrence Mwangi, Assistant Director of Environment in charge of pollution control at the Nairobi County Government.

“We intend to use our digital platforms and expansive network infrastructure to support the air quality monitoring project to expand across more urban areas in Kenya. We will also foster partnerships with other stakeholders including regulators, relevant ministries and private organizations to help build a compressive and sustainable air quality monitoring system,” said Peter Ndegwa, CEO, Safaricom

Outdoor air pollution in both cities and rural areas was estimated to cause three million premature deaths globally in 2012 with 88 per cent of the cases reported in low-and middle-income countries.

An estimated three billion people cook and heat their homes using open fires and simple stoves by burning wood, animal dung and crop waste or coal.

Over 50 per cent of premature deaths due to pneumonia among children under five are caused by the particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution. 

Policies and investments supporting cleaner transport, energy-efficient housing, power generation, industry and better municipal waste management would reduce key sources of urban outdoor air pollution. 

“Action on air pollution, which is responsible for millions of premature deaths a year, is critical – efforts should focus on high-risk communities, such as people living in informal urban settlements,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.

“We recognize that some of the world’s most vulnerable communities are disproportionately affected by poor air quality,” said IQAir CEO Frank Hammes.  “Through our partnership with UNEP, we are able to leverage real-time air quality monitoring data, machine learning and data visualization to help identify those that are most affected by global air pollution.”

The Nairobi air quality project comes as the world marks the second International Day for Clean Air and blue skies on September 7th.

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