In-house air pollution claims 2 million lives every year

July 30, 2013

2.7 billion people still depend on firewood, charcoal, dung and crop residues for their daily cooking and heating. The health risks of the traditional cooking practices should not be underestimated: Rudimentary wood-fired cook stoves and open fires emit fine particles, carbon monoxide, and other pollutants at levels up to 100 times higher than the recommended limits set by World Health Organisation (WHO, 2011).


Chronic exposure to smoke from traditional cooking practices is one of the biggest, albeit least known, killers. Penetrating deep into the lungs, the smoke causes a range of deadly chronic and acute health effects such as child pneumonia, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease. Every year nearly 2 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to indoor air pollution from inefficient household solid fuel use. Nearly 50% of pneumonia-related deaths amongst children under the age of five are due to particulate matter inhaled from indoor air pollution (WHO, 2011).


To discuss the current state of technology for sustainable cooking energy the Bonn International Cooking Energy Forum took place at the end of June 2013 with European partners of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Further discussions centered on how to create functioning markets for clean and efficient cook stoves. One of the Alliance’s major goals is the adoption of clean and efficient cook stoves by 100 million households by 2020. And therefore the Global Alliance is fighting a battle on multiple fronts:


Enhance demand


Convincing people to make the behavioral shift away from a traditional way of cooking that their families and communities have practiced for generations, in favor of a clean cook stove and sustainable fuels is one of the sector’s major challenges. One way of countering consumer skepticism is to develop public awareness programs that will resonate with the end-user, using a combination of non-traditional media such as community theater with radio and advertising. Just like any other product, different cook stove designs are needed to meet different individual needs, e.g. varying local fuel sources, family sizes, and food types.


Strengthen supply


Ensuring sufficient capital for cook stove businesses, research and development is crucial to further the adoption of clean cook stoves and fuels. People concerned by the lack of sustainable cooking practices need valuable solutions, at prices they can afford. Access to potential carbon finance revenues, gathering better market intelligence and including women in the value-chain could help to stimulate supply.


Foster an enabling environment


Enabling the environment to use clean cook stoves is also vital to advancements in this sector. Creating suitable conditions for this can, however be prohibitively expensive for any single stakeholder and should at best be undertaken by involving a variety of stakeholders with related skills.


You can find out more about the Transformation Strategy here.

Marlis Kees
Marlis Kees

Dr. Marlis Kees works for the Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) heading the project HERA – Poverty-oriented Basic Energy Services. This consultancy programme supports the usage of renewable energy and its sustainability and efficiency. With aid provided by the GIZ, in the last six years 2.5 million efficient stoves have been produced and sold. Energy-saving technology and adapted energy supply solutions have featured as significant issues for the GIZ over the past 30 years


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