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UNICEF: 10 million children at risk due to Indonesian forest fires

Forest fires continuously raging in Indonesia are putting the health of nearly 10 million children at risk. Smoke emerging from the flames reportedly caused by slash and burn techniques are contributing to dangerous levels of air pollution.

The United Nations signaled a warning against the toxic haze that’s been spreading across Southeast Asia in recent weeks. Airports and educational institutions have closed done as people flock to hoard face masks. Earlier this month, the Malaysian government handed out 500,000 face masks as they called out Indonesia for the lack of action to curb the fires. The Guardian reports that the public has been seeking treatment for respiratory ailments.

Unicef — UN’s agency for children — reported that an estimated 10 million people under the age of 18 are affected by the haze. Children under five years old make up a quarter of the number. The 10 million children are currently residing in Sumatra and Borneo where the worst fires are occurring.

“Many of the palm oil and pulp groups with the largest burned areas in their concessions have either not received any serious civil/administrative sanctions, or have had sanctions imposed that do not appear to fit with the level or frequency of burning,” environment org Greenpeace said in a report on Tuesday.

Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, sent out tens of thousands of fire-fighting personnel along with water-bombing aircraft to counter the problem. The slash-and-burn induced fires are an issue that the country faces annually. However, Indonesia’s forest fires continue to worsen since 2015 due to dry and arid weather.