North Macedonia, located in the center of the Balkan peninsula, has over two million inhabitants.
This is one of the countries most affected by air pollution; Early mortality rates are higher in most European Union countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) considers air pollution a “public health emergency” associated with 8.8 million premature deaths each year. This is the biggest environmental health risk in Europe.
North Macedonia’s air pollution can be attributed to emissions from former socialist Yugoslav industries, loosely regulated vehicles, outdoor waste incineration and indoor heating.
Each year, 2,574 people die prematurely as a direct result of air pollution, according to the EU Research Results website.
The WHO ambient air pollution database in 2018 ranked the capital Skopje, with about 600,000 inhabitants, the most polluted capital in Europe.
In addition to health problems, air pollution can cause psychological effects such as depression.
The low temperature of winter makes the situation worse, due to the high demand for heating.
According to local news outlet Makfax, the mayor of Skopje, Petre Shilegov, confirmed that about 60,000 households use low-quality wood and coal for heating.
Some burn textiles, plastics and waste to heat their homes, because of a poor gas supply and high electricity costs.
Income averages 260 euros per month, and energy poverty is raging in Skopje.
Another factor that contributes to air pollution is the natural location of North Macedonia: much of the country is located in a valley surrounded by mountains that trap mist.