21 September 2010

No More Smoke in Their Eyes: Clean Cookstoves

Gas is better than wood. (Photo by author.)
If you've never traveled in villages and rural areas of the developing world, it is difficult to imagine that nearly 3 billion people still cook with primitive technologies from earlier centuries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that almost 2 million people die from being exposed to toxic smoke from cooking with wood and other unclean fuels. The majority of those deaths are women and children.

Smoke from cookstoves contributes to a host of chronic illnesses and acute health impacts, including early childhood pneumonia, emphysema, cataracts, lung cancer, bronchitis, cardiovascular disease, and low birth weight.

Not to mention the devastation to the environment from deforestation, which can lead to flooding and other disasters.

In addition, women who cook with wood spend hours gathering fuel for cooking, taking them away from educational or business opportunities, and putting them at a safety risk as they often travel miles away from home.

Now a new initiative developed by the UN Foundation, in cooperation with a host of public, private, and non-profit partners, is planning to do something about it.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves was announced today by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York. Their goal: 100 million homes adopting new, clean stoves and fuels by 2020 ("100X20").

"Today we can finally envision a future in which open fires and dirty stoves are replaced by clean, efficient and affordable stoves and fuels all over the world -- stoves that still cost as little as $25," said Secretary Clinton. "By upgrading these dirty stoves, millions of lives could be saved and improved."

Secretary Clinton suggested that "Clean cookstoves can be as transformational as bed nets or vaccines."

The Secretary also announced an initial US financial commitment to the Alliance of $50 million over the next 5 years. An additional $10 million was pledged from partners. The total goal is $250 million over the next 10 years.

At $25 per stove, that buys a lot of stoves.

Adoption of new stoves can be difficult, Secretary Clinton acknowledged, which is why the Alliance will make every effort to incorporate local tastes and preferences rather than investing in one type of stove.

Enhanced by Zemanta