COP26: Mum of girl killed by toxic air pollution joins Glasgow protests calling for climate action

The mother of a nine-year-old girl who became the first person to have air pollution listed as a cause of their death is part of an international group of mothers taking to the streets of Glasgow this week for a series of mass protests being staged to coincide with COP26.

Rosamund Kissi-Debrah’s daughter Ella Roberta suffered from a rare and severe form of asthma, which led to her death at just nine years old in 2013.

But in a landmark ruling last December, following a long-running campaign, pollution from the South Circular Road in London was included as a contributing factor on her child’s death certificate.

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Now Ms Kissi-Debrah, a former teacher and co-founder of the Ella Roberta Family Foundation, is a World Health Organization advocate for health and air quality.

She is on a mission to secure the right for children around the world to breathe clean air and is one of a delegation of mothers from the UK, India, Nigeria, Brazil, Poland and South Africa who have come to Glasgow to demand that countries stop funding fossil fuel projects to protect the health of children and give them a safer future.

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They will join demonstrations being staged in the city on Friday and Saturday, alongside the likes of teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and campaign groups including Fridays for Future, the COP26 Coalition and Extinction Rebellion.

She said: “Lots of words and no action – and toxic pollution on our streets – is fuelling a public health crisis that is making our kids sick and threatening their futures.

Climate Youth activists, indigenous people and parents are demonstrating in Glasgow to call on leaders to take urgent action to safeguard the planet

“We need urgent action now.

“We are calling on world leaders at COP26 to implement the new World Health Organization guidelines, clean up our air and stop our children dying.

“This means ending new fossil fuels right now.

“Governments cozying up to fossil fuel companies and wasting taxpayers’ money to look for even more is just unacceptable.”

Campaigner Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, whose nine-year-old daughter Ella Roberta became the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed on a death certificate as a contributing factor, is in Glasgow to call for action on cleaning up the environment
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Fellow campaigner Kamila Kadzidlowska, from Poland, has three young sons.

She said: “I am here because my children are too small to fight for their health, security and future.

“I live in a country where policymakers say that family is very important. But for many decades they have been aware that burning coal is causing pollution and the pollution is making our kids sick.

“But they keep on the same track, neglecting the urgent energy and heating transformation needed.

“They say they need more time, but we as parents say no, we have no time.

“We will not allow them to sacrifice our children’s health and futures for the profits of the fossil fuel industry.

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“This is why I am here at COP26, to call on our leaders to stop new fossil fuels now.”

The women will be delivering a letter to high-level delegates at the United Nations summit, calling for leaders to stop financing all new fossil fuel projects for the sake of their children’s health and futures.

Poor air quality is the biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK.

Long-term exposure to pollution can cause chronic conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases as well as lung cancer, leading to reduced life-expectancy.

Breathing toxic air is estimated to cause more than seven million premature deaths globally each year – including 40,000 in the UK and 2,500 in Scotland.

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