Air pollution is a global health and environmental crisis, causing more deaths a year globally than HIV/AIDs and malaria, combined. Meanwhile, reducing certain types of air pollution can be one of the strongest levers available for slowing near-term global warming.

Air pollution impedes progress on 15 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by:

  • Harming human health: Air pollution is now one of the most significant causes of premature death and disability worldwide, responsible for an estimated 6.7 million deaths in 2019, including nearly 500,000 newborn children. Eighty percent of deaths due to air pollution occur in cities in low and middle income countries, often disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable populations.
  • Causing Climate Change: The 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C states that the only possible scenario for limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires reducing emissions of both carbon-dioxide and short-lived climate pollutants, such as black carbon (a component of particulate matter air pollution) and ozone. 
  • Threatening food security, water, and economic growth: Air pollution damages ecosystems, reduces agricultural productivity, and alters the water cycle. Globally, air pollution causes $5.11 trillion USD in global welfare losses each year (approximately 5% of global GDP).

USAID’s approach to addressing air pollution

Air pollution is a global problem that must be tackled with local and regional solutions enacted by multiple and diverse stakeholders. USAID is one of the largest donors in the air quality landscape, supporting several initiatives addressing air quality in regions across the world, as well as global initiatives that provide common knowledge infrastructure and resources to communities fighting air pollution. 

USAID’s air quality programming aims to mitigate and reduce ambient and household air pollution to reduce adverse health impacts, advance climate change mitigation and adaptation, and promote inclusive, sustainable development.

A current listing of air pollution-related programs at USAID:

Global / Multiple locations


Kenya: Kuboresha Afya Mitaani project on urban air pollution exposure



Hindu Kush Region: SERVIR-Hindu Kush Himalaya

Mekong Region: SERVIR – Mekong

Mongolia: Partnership for Enhanced Engagement in Research

Nepal: Kathmandu Valley Clean Air Program


The Americas


For more information about USAID’s work on air pollution, contact:


The city of Nairobi stretches across the foreground to the base of a mountain range that dominates the background. Storm clouds dot the sky. Credit: Ninara (Flickr)
OVERVIEW Low- and middle-income countries are at the frontlines of the growing air pollution and climate crisis.  Poor air quality is the greatest environmental risk to human health–linked to millions of deaths each year–and rapidly urbanizing cities in Asia and Africa are experiencing the worst levels of pollution. …
India, Indonesia, Kenya
Overview Exposure to airborne particulate matter (PM) is the top environmental health risk worldwide and has been associated with more than 4 million deaths per year, cardiovascular and respiratory disease, low birth weight, lung cancer, and other adverse health outcomes. However, linkages between particulate matter particle characteristics (size, shape, and…
Ethiopia, South Africa