Researchers say they’re seeing evidence to suggest that living near newly built roads in Ethiopia may be associated with higher rates of infant mortality.
The research finds a correlation to the higher incidence of infant mortality when mothers and babies live within five kilometers of the roads, likely because of exposure to toxic materials used, transported and dumped during their construction, according to economists at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and Trinity College Dublin (TCD).
The study looked at roads that connect Addis Ababa to the neighboring countries of Djibouti, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and Kenya. Using Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data gathered in 2005 and 2011 from nearby populations, and corresponding data on Ethiopian roads, they found a higher incidence of death and disease on roads to Djibouti and Somalia. The same routes have been identified through the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Greenpeace for illegal toxic waste handling, the authors said.
The team found that infant mortality rates jumped from 8.5 percent to 11 percent in the affected areas, while children under the age of 5 were more likely to suffer from low blood hemoglobin levels and severe anemia.
“The research builds on an established body of evidence linking toxic pollution to the incidence of death and disease in less developing countries,” said QMUL in a press release. “Among the poorest countries, it accounts for more than three times the number of death and diseases caused by malaria, HIV, tuberculosis combined.
“The illegal flow of toxic waste is recognized to be one of the most significant forms of transnational crime, with potentially devastating health consequences for local populations.”
The research teams said they chose Ethiopia because of its extensive road building in recent decades, but they warn that East Africa in general has been recognized by UNODC as a region under severe threat from toxic waste trafficking and dumping.
To see the complete working paper, check this link.
Image: Ethiopian Roads Authority