Pollution in Addis Ababa

Kalantha Brewis just sent me the following note:

“I just came back from my first trip to Ethiopia- a week long semi-work stay in Addis. I really enjoyed Ethiopia- found the people very friendly and the food good. But I spent the whole time struggling to breathe! I am not asthmatic and I don’t usually suffer from hayfever- so I think it must have been the pollution- walking round Addis gave me a really bad headache, and I was very much aware of the belching exhausts on all the cars and buses. The dust- mentioned in your guidebook- also made me cough almost incessantly. Pretty sure it wasn’t the altitude as I felt fine up in the much cleaner (and higher) areas I visited outside the city. A US colleague said she had the same trouble when she visited in February. I think its worth mentioning in your guide as anyone who does have a bit of respiratory trouble generally would be very well advised to consider what their strategy is going to be (e.g. only stay 2 or 3 days in Addis before finding somewhere less choking?)”

It would be useful to hear from other readers who have had this problem – and whether they have any advice for coping with it!


6 thoughts on “Pollution in Addis Ababa

  1. Petra says:

    Hi Kalantha,
    Your breathing problems could also stem from a problem your body is having with the high altitude – 2400m above sea-level on average are not easy to get adjusted for some people. This is neither related to age nor to fitness. It is just a disposition one either has or has not.
    The only way to get about it is to take it easy, especially during the first week to give the organism a chance to adapt to the fact that each inhale contains far less oxygen on this altitude.

  2. Becca says:

    I lived in Addis for 10 months, and I agree that the pollution can be very bad. Whenever I spent a lot of time walking/traveling on busy roads in the city, I would almost always have a headache at the end of the day. My nose and mouth also would usually have a sort of grey film for a little while. Unfortunately, I don’t have any ideas for how to prevent this.

    When I first arrived, I definitely did feel the effects of the altitude on my lungs and it felt like I couldn’t breathe easily. But I think the poor air quality can have additional impacts, as well.

  3. abdu a. almalik says:

    Addis is a beutiful place and its people are wonderfull but realy the polution is killing .I feel pity for the traffic police who stay long hours in the middle of hundreds of old cars emiting poisonous gases . To my astonishment they ticket the drivers if they gave money to poor children but they do not ticket the drivers who do not want to spend some money to fix their cars exhaust system ??? May be he do not know that these poisonous gases may reduce his age by at least 10 years ???

  4. Ted Scheuermann says:

    I agree that the air in Addis is bad. However, we came to Ethiopia in January 2011 and spent ten days. I had just been hospitalized in the states for asthma just a few weeks before. Both my wife and I felt like we were suffocating when we got to Addis. However, after about a week, we began to feel better. We live in Mekele, similar altitude to Addis, and the air is good here. I have had noasthma attacks and take no meds at all. When I go down to Addis, I stay for a week at a time: while I notice the dirty air, I have never felt like I was choking and have not used my meds there either.

    Believe it or not, the altitude is a huge factor in living in Ethiopia. But once you get used to it, the air isn’t so bad. However, I agree that Addis needs to clean up their air. Lond term illnesses like lung cancer, emphysema, copd, are just a breath away.

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