Today I stumbled upon an upsetting article in the Waitrose Weekend paper. It concerned a large minority of the population living in less economically developed countries who are forced to cook on open fires everyday of their lives, endangering their health.
According to the World Health Organisation, more than 3 billion people use unventilated open fires to cook their food on a daily basis which forces them to inhale a large quantity of smoke, the equivalent of burning 400 cigarettes an hour. This obviously impacts their health negatively and can lead to diseases and chronic conditions such as cancer and asthma. Surprisingly, this causes the deaths of 4.3 million people a year, which is more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
Little is done to stop these diseases from occurring, and the issue receives little attention from those who it doesn’t impact because there is almost no awareness of the problem and it degrades health, therefore not posing an immediate risk to those inhaling the smoke from the fires.
Thankfully, something is being done about this: the charity Practical Action has just launched a campaign named ‘The Killer in the Kitchen,’ which ‘encourages thousands of people to install smoke hoods, which act as chimneys.’ In the next year, the charity plans to fund 30,000 of these hoods to be installed in four districts of Nepal, a place I was lucky enough to visit this summer whilst trekking to Everest Base Camp. I have seen first hand the fires which the women are forced to use, and even from a distance my asthma was exacerbated. Practical Action will fit the cooker hoods and provide efficient biomass stoves, which will have the added benefit of reducing the amount of walking required to fetch wood each day to keep the fire burning.
The amount of smoke will be reduced because no wet wood (which smokes heavily) will have to be used. The health of millions will be improved and their quality of life will be too. We live in a world where half of deaths under the age of 5 from pneumonia are caused by preventable home air pollution, but unfortunately the women in Nepal do not like the idea of changing their traditions. Because of this, the hoods are designed to suit traditional cooking methods and the stoves do not use gas, which is too expensive for most families to afford.
The hoods cost a mere £60, 8000 rupees, but this is well beyond what most Nepalese can afford. Once again, Practical Action have stepped in and introduced a micro-loan system where-by the loan can be repaid over a long duration with minimal interest. The hoods are normally at a 50% discount, but if families still can’t afford a hood, and can prove it, they are eligible for the hardship fund and so they can get their hood for free.
In the UK, money needs to be raised for the fantastic work this charity are doing. Go and donate!
Keep your eyes peeled for my next post,