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Indonesia Calls for Action on Air Pollution and Children’s Health

At a symposium hosted by Bappenas, UNICEF Indonesia, partners and experts address leading risk factors and lifelong health harms

(New York, USA) – Exposure to air pollution is a threat to a child’s physical and cognitive development and can also lead to chronic diseases later in life. Experts called for action to address leading sources of air pollution in Indonesia, including peatland and forest fires, motor vehicles, coal-fired electric power generation, dust, open burning, and biomass burning and secondhand tobacco smoke at a symposium called “The Air We Breathe” hosted by Bappenas (Indonesia’s Ministry of National Development Planning), the Provincial Government of Jakarta, UNICEF Indonesia, and supported by technical partner Vital Strategies at the Aryaduta Jakarta, in Central Jakarta City.  The event culminated in a commitment by Bappenas to develop evidence-based policy recommendations for mitigating health effects of air pollution, with a focus on clear measures to ensure the protection of every child’s right to health and wellbeing.

Over 4.2 million people die every year as a result of exposure to ambient air pollution globally. In Indonesia, air pollution is one of the leading risk factors for death among children under the age of five.

“As one of the leading risk factors for death among children under the age of five, UNICEF Indonesia is supporting the government in addressing air pollution’s devastating impact on children’s health. We must all act urgently now to protect the children of Indonesia” said Gunilla Olsson, Representative at UNICEF Indonesia.

Woro Srihastuti Sulistyaningrum, Director of Family, Women, Children, Youth and Sports of the national planning agency (Bappenas), stated that “Air pollution is an issue that affects all of us, but especially vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and children. More and more people are living in cities across Indonesia, which means many people are clustered in areas exposed. As the sources of pollution are generally manmade, the problem will only become worse unless we change our behaviour.”

She continued in stating “protection of children from harm is a national development policy. So, we must reduce air pollution at the source, such as prevention of agricultural burning, or reduction of subsidies for non-renewable energy sources; improve the underlying health status of children through appropriate health and nutrition; and lastly, improve monitoring and policy that support actions to address air pollution.”

The Government of Jakarta strives to improve air quality of the capital. Deputy Governor of DKI Jakarta for Spatial Planning and Environment Oswar Muadzin Mungkasa said various efforts made by Jakarta Provincial Government could show results, but still require a more integrated effort. “Together we must realize that air quality management in Jakarta must be resolved regionally involving the entire metropolitan area of ​​Jakarta. The phenomenon of working in “silos” hinders this effort,” said Deputy Governor Oswar.

To break down these barriers, The Government of Jakarta has proposed to develop a ‘Grand Design’ for Air Quality Improvement. Initiated by the Deputy Governor of Spatial Planning and Environment, “The grand design will be developed through a collaborative approach that prioritizes government and non-governmental partnerships, and between Jakarta city government and surrounding city governments. The Grand Design is a commitment and consensus with stakeholders to achieve a shared vision for strengthening Jakarta’s air quality management”, said Oswar, Deputy Governor.

“Jakarta regularly organizes Car-Free Day on several major roads in Jakarta, it has introduced a system of ‘odd-even’ number plate access, it encourages the use of environmentally friendly Fuel Gas (BBG), as well as monitors non-moving emissions sources from industries in the Jakarta area. For indoor air pollution, Jakarta has regulations to enforce non-smoking areas, especially in schools, offices, and shopping centers,” said Deputy Governor Oswar.

“Air pollution affects children at every stage of development,” said Daniel Kass, Senior Vice President of Environmental Health at Vital Strategies. “Prenatal and early life exposures affect child growth and development, and increase a child’s risk of developing lung disease, and as they age, cardiovascular disease. Improving air quality saves lives, protects growing children, and improves the economic wellbeing of a country.  Improving air quality requires strong policies to reduce emissions from traffic, peatland fire, household energy use, and energy generation. Too many highly polluting diesel vehicles remain on the road. Nearly one-third of Indonesian households continue to rely on solid fuels to meet their household energy needs.  And the price advantage of coal for energy generation does not take account of the social and health costs from its air pollution. We applaud the work of Bappenas, the Government of Indonesia and UNICEF, in their efforts to start a public dialogue on this issue and turn key evidence into policy action.”

In addition to public health benefits, reducing air pollution can have multiple co-benefits, like the promotion of liveable (‘child-friendly’) cities, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems, as outlined in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Evidenced-based policy actions for reducing health harms of air pollution in Indonesia include preventing peatland fires, promoting clean household energy, seeking alternatives to burning of open waste and agricultural residues, ensuring smoke-free environments, and developing and enforcing stricter emissions regulations for industry and vehicles.

“Air Pollution: A Threat to Children’s Health in Indonesia,” an evidence brief developed by Vital Strategies and UNICEF is available at:

About Ministry of National Development Planning/ National Development Planning Agency (BAPPENAS)

Ministry of PPN/ Bappenas is a ministry of the Republic of Indonesia with the task of national development planning to assist the President in organising state governance. Bappenas serves to formulate policies and decision-making, whilst functioning as a think tank, coordinator and administrator. To learn more, please visit or @BappenasRI

About Dinas Lingkungan Hidup Provinsi DKI Jakarta

Tel (021) 8092744

Fax (021) 8091056

For more information on UNICEF’s work in Indonesia, visit:


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. To save their lives. To defend their rights. To help them fulfil their potential. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, every day, to build a better world for everyone. And we never give up.

For more information about UNICEF and its work, visit:

Kinanti Pinta Karana, Communications Specialist UNICEF Indonesia


Mobile: +62 8158805842

 About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To learn more, please visit or @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies environmental health expert, please contact