Air Quality in Africa and Middle East

Posted on April 8th 2015
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Flag of the African Union
When talking about Air Quality, the first countries that comes to people's mind are China and India, and more generally Asia. Even on the World Air Quality Index project, Asia has always been, since the begining, our strong focus (most likely because this is where our HQ is located!).

Few years ago, in 2012, we decided to extend our scope to cover the other seven continents, starting with Oceania, and then following with Europe and North America, South America. But one of seven continents, namely Africa, has been surprisingly lacking behind. We received many inquiries about this lack of data, and one of the last was from Said E. who wrote:
Thanks for making the World Air Quality Index project site. It gives very useful information.
My only concern is why Africa is not considered.
For information I am a moroccan citizen.
There is actually a good reason for worrying about Air Quality in Northen Africa and Middle East, because of the Saharan dust. This amount of dust is so massive that it is even able to cross continents, and move towards south America but also Europe.

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We have been doing a lot of research on the available Air Quality monitoring in Africa (and Middle East), and the outcome is that only two countries in Africa are providing real-time data in Africa: Those two countries are Senegal and South Africa.

Fortunately, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been doing a very good work at making the updated 2014 inventory of the Outdoor Air Quality, available from who.int/phe/health_topics/outdoorair/en/.
From their inventory, it appears that except from the Republics of Senegal and South Africa which we already inventoried on the World Air Quality Index project, 4 other countries are also providing readings, namely: Ghana, Liberia, Tanzania and Mauritius.

Surprisingly, there is no mention of Morocco for which we found evidences of existing monitoring stations. The other surprise is for Kenya, which is the country where United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) HQ is located. One would expect that the UNEP takes the initative to setup a monitoring station on the rooftop of their building, just like the US consultates are now doing all over the world.

Not all of the countries mentionend in the WHO report is providing continuous readings: for some of them, the monitoring is a temporary project and the data is only available for a limited period of time. Anyways, as soon as we get hold of the data from the 4 new countries, we will be updating the World Air Quality Index project website. Meanwhile, one can get an idea of the current Air Quality condition with the map below, which is based on the real-time daily average remote satellite readings .

Africa map with PM2.5 AQI overlay, forcasted on Mon 26th Sep - 2016- Markers in blue are for Africa, and in purple for Middle East.
GhanaAccra - 4 residential and 1 roadside station in Accra
LiberiaBuchanan (rural) - 1 station: rural, 500m away from community, Osris Sanniquellie (rural) - 1 station: rural, within the community, Osiris monitors
MauritiusBeau Bassin/Rose Hill, Coromandel - 1 station: in town of Beau Bassin/Rose Hill Bramsthan, Flacq - 1 station: in Placq (rural) Midlands - 1 station: rural Port Louis - 1 station: urban St Louis city
SenegalDakar - 3 stations in capital city: 2 traffic, 1 urban for PM10; 1 station traffic for PM2.5
South AfricaCape Town (urban, total) - 7 stations: 6 urban (incl regional urban), 1 industrial Durban - 5 stations: urban, mostly residential Highveld Priority Area Network - 5 stations: residential Johannesburg - 6 stations: 2 no info, 3 background, 1 urbna/commercial/industrial Tshwane (Pretoria) (total, urban) - 6 stations: 3 no info, 3 residential/industrial Vaal Priority Area - 5 stations: urban, mostly residential Waterberg - 3 stations: residential
Unit. Rep. of TanzaniaMorogoro - 1 station, 2 measurement (during dry and wet season)

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For the readers interrested in the Middle East, the WHO is inventoring quite a few countries with monitoring data available. The one already inventoried on the World Air Quality Index project are United Arab Emirates, Iran, Qatar and Lebanon. Please note that at the time of writing, the Air Quality monitoring System for Abu Dhabi / UAE is not working, and has been in maintenance for several months (since Summer 2014). The monitoring System for Dubai is however working.

AfghanistanKabul - ISAF HQ - 1 station: urban Mazar-e Sharif - Camp Northern Lights - 1 station: urban outskirts
EgyptCairo - 48 stations (8 industrial, 9 urban, 5 residential, 10 traffic, 4 remote, 12 mixed) Delta cities - 13 stations (4 industrial, 4 urban, 2 residential, 1 remote, 2 mixed)
IranAhvaz - 1 station (residential) Khoramabad - 8 stations, covering the metropolis area Tehran - 7 stations with valid data: no information given about sites
JordanAmman - 4 stations: 2 high and 2 low pollution areas
LebanonBeirut - 3 stations in 1 city Tripoli - 01/2008-06/2008 (6 months)
PakistanKarachi - 3 stations in various location: 1 unknown, 1 industrial/residential, 1 commercial/residential Lahore - Johar Town - 1 station: residential Peshwar - 1 station: N/A Rawalpindi - 1 station: residential
BahrainHamad Town - 1 Residential urban station Hidd - 1 Residential urban station Ma'ameer - 1 Residential Industrial station (Mixed) Nabih Saleh - 1 Urban background station Ras Hayan - 1 Rural background station
OmanMuscat - 4 stations in 1 city: 1 commercial, 2 industrial, 1 unknown
QatarAl Wakrah - Mobile Station Doha - 3 stations
Saudi ArabiaJeddah - 7 stations: 3 residential, 3 urban and 1 suburban
United Arab EmiratesAbu Dhabi - 2 stations: 2 urban/residential Al Ain - Urban/ Residential -Al Ain School - 1 station: urban/residential Al Gharbia - Biya Zayed - 1 station: no information given

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Extract of the World Health Organization Ambient (outdoor) air pollution in cities database

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    About the Air Quality and Pollution Measurement:

    About the Air Quality Levels

    AQIAir Pollution LevelHealth ImplicationsCautionary Statement (for PM2.5)
    0 - 50GoodAir quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no riskNone
    51 -100ModerateAir quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.
    101-150Unhealthy for Sensitive GroupsMembers of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is not likely to be affected.Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.
    151-200UnhealthyEveryone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effectsActive children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid prolonged outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion
    201-300Very UnhealthyHealth warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid all outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit outdoor exertion.
    300+HazardousHealth alert: everyone may experience more serious health effectsEveryone should avoid all outdoor exertion

    To know more about Air Quality and Pollution, check the wikipedia Air Quality topic or the airnow guide to Air Quality and Your Health.

    For very useful health advices of Beijing Doctor Richard Saint Cyr MD, check www.myhealthbeijing.com blog.


    Usage Notice: All the Air Quality data are unvalidated at the time of publication, and due to quality assurance these data may be amended, without notice, at any time. The World Air Quality Index project has exercised all reasonable skill and care in compiling the contents of this information and under no circumstances will the World Air Quality Index project team or its agents be liable in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss, injury or damage arising directly or indirectly from the supply of this data.



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