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Open-fire cooking causing far too many deaths, study shows

Health & Science
Open-fire cooking causing far too many deaths, study shows Monitoring Manager of Climate pal Company Mercy Keraro displays her stove during clean cookstove and fuel conference in Nairobi. (Photo:Beverlyne Musili/Standard)

By Lonah Kibet

Kenya: Cooking with firewood has been linked with depletion of Kenya’s major forests, but a new study shows that the practice is the major cause of acute respiratory infections that kills more than 15,000 people yearly.

This includes more than 8,300 children in rural areas who die from exposure to the toxic smoke of traditional fire stoves.

The worrying statistics has kindled health experts and environmentalist to come up with clean alternative aimed at saving lives and the country’s forest.

Already the government is working towards achieving Kenya’s Country Action Plan 2012; targeting 7 million households, to adopt the newly launched improved cookstoves by 2020. 

The improved cookstove model is made of metal casing, cement, sand clay, which use small pieces of firewood, retains heats for hours and reduces smoke emissions by over 60 per cent.

“It is very efficient, economical and good for one’s health. Those we have distributed to are satisfied with the results and we have more orders coming in from the region,” said Mercy Keraro, the Climate Pal quality control and monitoring manager, during the launch in Nairobi.

“The use of clean safe and efficient cookstoves can dramatically reduce fuel consumption and exposure to harmful smoke, provide myriad economic opportunities for Kenya and help reduce deforestation,” said Radha Muthiah, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves executive director. 

She said the clean cookstoves have been designed to reduce the risk of mortality attributable to indoor smoke from solid fuel.

Currently, the country continues to experience massive destructions of forests form logging and charcoal burning, forcing the government to relocate the settlers encroaching in to the major water towers.

Most recent case is the evictions at the Embobut forest, which the government has linked to the drying up of rivers that provide drinking water for millions of Rift Valley residents.

Countrywide, 95 per cent — 5.6 million households use approximately ten kilogrammes of firewood each day, a figure that translates to 5.6 million kilogrammes of trees, being depleted from the forest daily.

Green Africa Foundation chairperson Dr Isaac Kalua commented: “If we are losing our trees, water and lives, what will we have for prosperity.”

During the occasion, more than 10 different organisation showcased their cookstoves and ovens made from different materials, which revolved around good health and efficiency in cooking. Most of the designs are meant to last seven years, but any breakage in between is replaced by the organisations at no cost to the owner.

The Alliance has targets 100 million households in Africa to adopt clean and efficient Cookstoves and fuels by 2020.

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