USAID’s support to the Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) program: Monitoring particulate air pollution and human health in Africa.
Airborne particulate matter 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 composition) and health remain poorly understood. The goal of NASA’s Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) mission is to enable health studies in regions impacted by different levels, types, and sources of particulate matter pollution. The investigation represents the first time NASA has partnered with epidemiologists and health organizations on a satellite mission to study human health and improve lives.
In collaboration with NASA, USAID is supporting the development of next generation technology that will significantly move forward the science of using satellite data to capture concentrations and classes of fine particulate matter. Since many Low and Middle Income Countries do not have the resources or expertise to monitor air pollution, this effort can help fill an important gap that currently hinders action on air pollution.
The MAIA team has currently identified 12 globally distributed Primary Target Areas for detailed study of the concentrations and chemical composition of particulate matter and its impacts on human health. In these areas – located in the U.S., Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa – MAIA satellite data will be combined with particulate matter data from ground instruments. USAID’s assistance is specifically to fill a gap in the ground sensor networks in Ethiopia and South Africa – two MAIA Primary Target Areas where the ground sensor networks were least developed and where funding was needed the most. USAID’s support ensured inclusion of the African continent in the project, where air pollution is a growing challenge but understudied compared to other regions. USAID’s support to MAIA is provided through the existing NASA/USAID SERVIR partnership that helps participating countries use satellite data and geospatial technology to address development challenges related to climate risk and land use.
Key deployment sites for particulate matter chemical speciation monitors in Ethiopia for activities supported under this investigation include the Black Lion Hospital at Addis Ababa University; the US Embassy, Armauer Hansen Research Institute, and Environmental Protection and Green Development Commission in Addis Ababa; and the Lund University Research Station in Adama. Sites in South Africa Include the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Pretoria, University of Johannesburg, and the South African Weather Service station in Irene.
The expected outcomes of this collaboration are to:
deploy and operate specialized air quality equipment to monitor different constituents of fine particulate matter and establish sustainable operations after the MAIA mission is completed,
explore the effects of mixtures of particulate matter pollution on cause-specific mortality, cognition, preeclampsia, low birth weight, and childhood respiratory morbidity,
engage and coordinate air quality and public health organizations, universities, science councils, and other stakeholders in Ethiopia and South Africa,
prepare teaching materials and hold training workshops to instruct researchers in Africa how to access, browse, visualize, and utilize MAIA data products,
coordinate with SERVIR on the positioning of secondary target areas in Africa to complement the Ethiopia and South Africa primary targets.