Mother of girl who died of air pollution says she would be ‘overjoyed’ by CBE

The mother of a nine-year-old girl who died from an asthma attack and air pollution says she would be “overjoyed” as she is made a CBE.

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, from Lewisham, south-east London, has been named in the New Year Honours list for services to public health.

She has been campaigning for the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill or “Ella’s law” – named after her daughter who died in 2013 and later became the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as a cause of death.

The Bill is set to be scrutinised by MPs in the Commons after passing the Lords in early December.

Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah told the PA news agency her daughter would be “proud” of what she has achieved so far in her fight for cleaner air.

“(Ella) would be over the moon, she would be overjoyed,” she said.

“Although I got the inquest victory, she would be really, really proud that I just didn’t give up because I could have walked, couldn’t I?

“I could have got that victory and thought: ‘OK, I now know what happened to her – end of story’ and just moved on.

“I think she would be incredibly incredibly proud – oh God, yeah. It’s an absolute honour and recognition for the campaign.”

Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah also called the experience of being made a CBE “bittersweet”, adding: “It has a sad edge to it.

“When I went to the cemetery on Christmas Day, because we had to go and sort out Ella’s grave, and I was like: ‘Ah, your mum got a CBE and you’re not here to see it’.

Ella Kissi-Debrah
Ella Kissi-Debrah’s death was linked to air pollution (Family handout/PA)

“It was like a bittersweet moment on Christmas Day because, let’s be honest, one of the reasons why I’ve got it is my campaigning work and I think it will always make me humble.

“I thought: ‘God if you were still here, I’d still be teaching and I still wouldn’t have that’.”

Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah described the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak from prolonged exposure to mould and the children who have recently died from Strep A as “horrific”.

“Every time someone dies from something respiratory it’s going to affect you,” she said.

“I think, psychologically, I don’t really get a break. Children still die from asthma, the numbers aren’t going down,” she said.

Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debra said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has yet to respond to a letter she wrote to him calling for action over the issue of outdoor and indoor pollution.

“I mentioned the fact that until the air is clean, this whole thing with the NHS is going to continue because prevention is better than cure.

“Unless he clears up the air, diseases and illnesses are going to continue.”