In many parts of the world, cooking is a simple task. You buy groceries, prepare the ingredients, and turn on the stove or oven. In many other parts of the world, making a meal is much more difficult. In addition to limited access to food and water, meals must be prepared using cookstoves.

Cooking can become a day-long task that requires searching for firewood, which will burn in a small, poorly ventilated home. Nearly 3 billion people depend on inefficient fuels to cook food they need to survive, though.

These fuels cause extremely high levels of air pollution and exposure is health-damaging, especially for women and children who spend the most time near the domestic hearth. Health risks include lung cancer, stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pneumonia.

In fact, fumes from cooking stoves account for more than 4.3 million deaths each year. More than 50 percent of premature deaths due to pneumonia among children under the age of 5 are caused by household air pollution.

Read More: A New Kind of Cookstove Can Save Lives and Trees in Ethiopia

The effects of cookstoves reach beyond an individual’s health.

Fuel-gathering consumes hours of time each day for young girls who would otherwise be at school. Black carbon and methane released into the atmosphere are influential climate-change pollutants. It’s no question that something needs to be done to improve the type of fuel used in cookstoves for the people using them and the environment.

But without a change in policy, the number of people reliant on cookstoves and inefficient fuels will remain the same, and therefore, the health of these people and the environment will not improve.

The World Health Organization has put air quality guidelines in place for household fuel combustion to improve the air quality in homes using cookstoves. This also supports the Sustainable Energy for All initiative target of universal access to clean energy by 2030.

The US government has also teamed up with the UN and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and to being clean cookstoves and fuels to 100 million people in places they’re needed the most by 2020. The Indian government also promised to bring clean cookstoves to 50 million people.

A clean cookstove reduces the amount of air pollution and families’ fuel-related health risks. Traditional cookstoves burn firewood, producing dangerous carbon emissions and could result in deforestation. Clean cookstoves reduce the amount of wood used by 50 to 70 percent and carbon emission by 1.5 tons each year. A clean cookstove relies on more efficient fuels for power, ultimately improving the health of women and their families using them.

Trees, Water & People, an organization with a community-based development model, is working to provide clean cookstoves for these families. Between 1998 and 2015, Trees, Water & People built and more than 70,000 clean cookstoves to improve the way women are cooking in their homes. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves also keeps a Clean Cooking Catalogue updated with recorded results of the cookstoves they have places in homes.

Read More: US Saves Lives By Pledging Clean Cooking Stoves for 100 Million People

From rocket stoves that burn efficient fuels to solar stoves that generate heat from the sun, there are several alternatives to improve the health and cleanliness of cookstoves. Delivering access to clean fuels like electricity, gas, and ethanol can have major positive impacts on cooking-related issues, improving air quality and health while saving lives.


Defeat Poverty

How a Tiny Cookstove Could Save Millions of Lives

By Krista Watson