A “Staying at Home for Pollution” social challenge is the latest activity within the campaign "Clean Air, Blue Sky" by CHANGE which took place throughout 2019 and which was sponsored by the German Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City. Taking the form of debate on social networks, the campaign aims to promote strong discussions and direct the community's attention to the protection of personal health when the air quality index (AQI) is at “Purple Alert Level (201-300)” – meaning “Very Unhealthy”.
In Vietnam, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the average concentration of particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5) in urban areas in Vietnam is 28 μg/m3; 3 times higher than is recommended as safe with the annual average nationally being 10 μg/m3. The year-end period is a time of high air pollution due to the combination of weather and inherent sources of pollution causing the air quality index of Hanoi city to be poor. Ho Chi Minh City also experienced the phenomenon of photochemical smog restricting visibility across the city.
However, despite the fact that people in Vietnam can both smell and see the air pollution, the community is not yet concerned or aware enough about the health impacts to choose to stay at home at these times of high pollution.
The campaign started with the video clip "Staying at home on pollution day": a female boss preparing for her children to go to school, when suddenly a call announces that the school is closed today because of weather problems. Following this she then receives many leave sick leave emails and it is seen that serious air pollution is the reason. Through the video, CHANGE want to introduce a solution to the community, especially business leaders. They suggest that companies should consider that “working from home” is an option which is included in the company's policy when the Air Quality Index (AQI) is at alarming levels, following a wider trend for many office workers to "work from home" today. In support of this, Ms. Hoang Thi Mai Huong, Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Vietnam Board of Directors says that “working from home is not an optimal solution, but it will be a flexible solution for organizations, and businesses should aim to protect the health of employees as well as contribute to reducing emissions.”
Alongside this, CHANGE also interviewed people in Hanoi, including people with disabilities, the elderly, children, pregnant women, office workers, celebrities, and people working in social organizations. Mr. Phan Anh, the CHANGE Master of Ceremonies, says, “I am very worried, not just because of the indexes given in the newspaper, but from what I can feel right away in the streets. I think I should stay indoors, when I go out into the street when it is so polluted and hot, I can see that everyone is unhappy
On social networks, CHANGE also created a discussion forum around the question of "staying off the roads" or "staying at home" when the air quality index was poor.
Not only were the "staff team" and "mother and baby team" participating in the online discussion but also "boss team" - senior management from organisations including the Dinosaur Digital Creative Agency, MicroAd Vietnam, Euro Window and Reckitt Benckiser Vietnam.
Mr. Trong Nguyen, Dinosaur's Creative Director said "Perhaps the only way for Vietnamese people to deal with air pollution is to wear a mask when going out. Because of claustrophobia, wearing a mask also feels uncomfortable for me, so I will limit my road use and stay home on days of heavy pollution. This will at least remove one motorcycle from the roads, also reducing air pollution a little bit".
Looking overseas, Thailand has for the first time announced that more than 400 schools will close when the AQI exceeds the safety standard thus helping to ensure the health of future generations. At the same time, the city of Bangkok also conducted water spraying campaigns in the city and surrounding areas to minimize the concentration of fine dust around schools and major roads. In India, Mr. Arvind Kejriwal, the Premier of New Delhi – a city known as the “Gas Chamber” – announced the closure of all schools in the area in October 2019 and the government has introduced policies that restrict both personal vehicles in the city and provide free masks for anyone going outside.
Ms. Nguyen Thi Cat Tuong, Project Manager of CHANGE, also described the importance of awareness-raising communication for the health impacts of air pollution: “In recent years, CHANGE has conducted a large-scale survey to assess the awareness of people of large cities in Vietnam on the air pollution issue and we found that most of the people are aware of the deterioration of the surrounding air quality, however do not have time to protect their personal health in the high air pollution season. We also recognize that at times when the AQI increases, warnings from the government are important for the community, especially for children, because they are the most vulnerable to air pollution”.
The campaign "Staying at Home for Pollution" is pleased to have the support of partners including strategic media partners Chicilon, Target Media, WE media, Movad, and Ureka.