image credit: United Nations Photo (Flickr CC)

Indoor air pollution from cooking stoves is the a serious health risk in developing countries. According to UN figures, it causes cardio-pulmonary diseases and low birth weight, killing some 1,9 million people every year – mostly women and children.

Rudimentary cooking stoves in poor nations are usually fueled by foraged wood, crop waste, coal and dung. Besides being a major health hazard, the use of such stoves has substantial and manifold effects on the environment. The soot, or black carbon, produced by these stoves has a fast acting, though short-lived impact on global warming.

Gathering wood for the stoves has also contributed to significant deforestation in Africa and Asia. The depletion of these cooking fuel sources in regions that depend on cooked grains would severely impact nutrition and hunger.

Although the toxic smoke from the primitive stoves is one of the leading environmental causes of death and disease, and perhaps the second biggest contributor to global warming, after the industrial use of fossil fuels, it has long been neglected by governments and private aid organizations.

–New York Times

On Tuesday’s annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the support of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. The US will initially provide $50 million (€37m) for the project, whose aim is to install 100 million inexpensive clean stoves around the world.

Even this amount would only provide a fifth of what’s needed, and the stoves will need replacing every few years. But as Mrs. Clinton said, ‘We have to start somewhere’.

Read more on the story in the following article in the New York Times:

Developing Nations to Get Clean-Burning Stoves

Also check out this opinion piece in the Guardian:

How Hillary Clinton’s clean stoves will help African women

Additional resources:

AFP – Hillary Clinton cooks up plan for clean stoves

Huffington Post – A Winning Recipe for Sustainable Development