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Ten million children at risk from health fires in Indonesia (UNICEF)

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — At least 10 million children in Indonesia are threatened by forest fires and toxic fumes, scientists warned on Tuesday as scientists feared greenhouse gas emissions.

The fires on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia caused air pollution in a large area in South-East Asia, and forced thousands of schools to close and many residents to wear masks or treatment as a result of respiratory infections.

Jakarta has deployed 29,000 firefighters and military personnel to besiege fires caused by human activities.

Fires erupt every year in the Indonesian archipelago, but the current fires have a wider scope than their predecessors due to a prolonged and intensifying dry season.

About 10 million children, under the age of 18 and a quarter under five, live in the worst-affected areas of Sumatra and the Indonesian part of Borneo, according to a UNICEF statement.

The youngest people are most at risk with the high level of contamination because their immune system is still growing, the UN said. She explained that infants born to mothers who were exposed to contamination during pregnancy may be born less than the average rate and may be born prematurely.

“Bad air quality is a serious challenge in Indonesia and it is getting worse,” Deborah Kumini said in the statement.

Figures from the Copernicus Atmospheric Surveillance Service, referring to a European program using satellite data, revealed that Indonesia’s fires this year have emitted carbon dioxide, almost as much as the 2015 fires, the worst in two decades.

Between the beginning of August and September 18, 360 million tons of greenhouse gases were emitted by fires, compared with 400 million in 2015, according to the European program.

At the height of the 2015 fire crisis, greenhouse gases were burning daily equivalent to the amount emitted from US economic activities, according to the World Resources Institute.

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