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

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, data from the country’s Health Ministry as of September 23 showed that peoplesuffering from ISPA amounted to 919,516 in six provinces, Agus told a pressconference in East Jakarta on September 23.

The highest number of residents with haze-related illness were found in SouthSumatra (291,807), followed by Riau (nearly 267,000), West Kalimantan (nearly181,000), 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 ontheir health and ask for masks, medicines and supplementary foods for babiesand pregnant women.

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

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

Indonesia has deployed some 10,000 soldiers, policemen and BNPB staff as wellas tens of helicopters for water bombing to fight forest fires in the past twomonths./. VNA
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