Earth Day: Giant white bear begins epic six-month journey across Nepal to raise awareness of air pollution
Saathi the "Air Bear" gets ready for its journey around Nepal. Photo by Ayush Joshi/Save the Children
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KATHMANDU, 22 April 2023 – A giant white teddy bear[i] begins his journey across Nepal today, accompanied by a group of young climate activists on a drive to raise awareness about air pollution.
To mark Earth Day, Save the Children in Nepal is introducing Saathi the "Air Bear," who will travel to different parts of the country over the next six months in a truck while its fur gradually gets darker to highlight the impact of air pollution.
Saathi, which means 'friend or buddy' in Nepali, will have the colour of its fur monitored over its journey while meeting policymakers, entertainers and visiting schools and colleges along the way.
The campaigners aim to show the impact of air pollution on the environment and the health of children ahead of this year's G20 in India in October and the COP28 climate change summit in Dubai.
The World Health Organisation’s data shows that almost all of the global population breathes air that contains high levels of pollutants, with low- and middle-income countries suffering from the highest exposure.
Himani, 16, a child climate activist in Nepal, said: “People say the sky is blue. The sky that I see is dark. The air burns my eyes, and it’s hard to breathe. The air is toxic."
The latest update of the Air Quality Life Index from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago estimated that air pollution is the most significant threat to human health in Nepal, reducing life expectancy by 4.1 years on average, with Nepal ranking the third most polluted country globally after Bangladesh and India. In addition, air pollution is linked to respiratory diseases, heart problems, and even cognitive impairment in children.
Save the Children’s Country Director for Nepal, Heather Campbell, said: “Saathi, the ‘Air Bear' is a symbol of the impact of air pollution on our children's health and future. We hope this campaign will encourage duty bearers, policymakers, and influential stakeholders in Nepal to take action to address this urgent issue and create a better future for our children."
The Air Bear initiative is part of Save the Children’s ''Generation Hope' campaign that aims to raise awareness of the impact of the climate crisis that is threatening the future, survival, learning, and safety of children.
The threat posed to children and their rights by climate change is real and urgent. Save the Children's Born Into the Climate Crisis report found that children born in 2020 will, on average, face seven times more scorching heatwaves, 2.8 times more floods, and 2.6 times more droughts during their lives than their grandparents. For children in East Asia and the Pacific region, this number increases to eight times as many heatwaves, three times as many floods and 2.5 times more droughts.
Additional research by Save the Children revealed that 80% of children in Asia – or more than 905 million children - are estimated to be affected by at least one extreme climate event annually. More than a third of them are at particular risk because they live in poverty and have fewer resources to protect themselves and recover.
The same report found that a third of children across the world are living with the dual impact of poverty and high climate risk.
Notes for editors
Generation Hope is Save the Children's flagship climate campaign. It is a child- and youth-led movement designed to amplify the voices of children and young people. In doing so, Generation Hope is increasing their agency to advocate for real and urgent action on the climate crisis. This global emergency is already taking lives, eroding children's rights, and threatening the future of our planet. In 2022, the campaign engaged with 54,500 children globally and 7,675 children in Nepal. The campaign promoted the voices and concerns of children and young people with national leaders and generated discussions around climate change and its impact on economic inequality.
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[i] Saathi, the ‘Air Bear’ is 4 metres/ 12 feet tall