Gathering wood and dung for open-fire cooking involves many challenges and dangers. Often it requires walking long distances, up to 21 km per day. The journey to the fuel sites puts women and girls at risk of being attacked by wild animals and human predators. .
“Making dinner shouldn’t be fatal. But millions of people in the developing world die each year from illnesses linked to smoke spewing out of crude stoves. “Having an open fire in your kitchen is like burning 400 cigarettes an hour in your kitchen,” said Kirk Smith, University of California at Berkeley. Some three billion people prepare meals at rudimentary stoves that burn wood, dried dung or coal and that produce choking smoke or lack proper ventilation. Because cooking chores most often fall to women, and children are typically at hand, they are the primary victims of smoke-related respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”
• Around 3 billion people cook and heat their homes using open fires and simple stoves burning biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal.
• Over 4 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels.
• More than 50% of premature deaths among children under 5 are due to pneumonia caused by particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution.
• 3.8 million premature deaths annually from noncommunicable diseases including stroke, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obs tructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer are attributed to exposure to household air pollution
• Fuel gathering consumes considerable time for women and children, limiting other productive activities (e.g. income generation) and taking children away from school. In less secure environments, women and children are at risk of injury and violence during fuel gathering.
• Black carbon (sooty particles) and methane emitted by inefficient stove combustion are powerful climate change pollutants.
• The lack of access to electricity for at least 1.2 billion people (many of whom then use kerosene lamps for lighting) creates other health risks, e.g. burns, injuries and poisonings from fuel ingestion, as well as constraining other opportunities for health and development, e.g. studying or engaging in small crafts and trades, which require adequate lighting.