LibLink: Paddy Ashdown in Bangladesh: Stoves that save children’s lives

Photo UNICEF BangladeshPaddy Ashdown has been writing over at UNICEF’s blog about his recent visit to Bangladesh. There, he saw the benefits of an initiative, supported by Marks and Spencer, to provide better ventilated, safer, fuel efficient stoves to 40,000 homes.

First of all, he outlines how dangerous simply cooking dinner could be:

I have just returned from a visit to the country and even in the tiny village of Daccope, children are exposed to potentially deadly air pollution in their own home every day. This dangerous mix of chemicals, including carbon monoxide, can cause breathing illness such as pneumonia, lung cancer, as well as stunted development. For tens of thousands of children, it can be lethal.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), indoor air pollution accounts for 4.3 million deaths across the world, most of them women and children who tend to be primarily responsible for cooking. Globally it kills over five times more people than malaria. In Bangladesh it is the second biggest killer of children under the age of 5 years, after diarrhoea.

Nearly 90% of homes in Bangladesh use traditional stoves for their cooking, exposing the millions of children in this country to this major health risk.

Then he shows the positive impact the new stoves can make:

Metu, who I met in Daccope, has two children, a boy and girl. She is the proud owner of a new improved cook stove. “It will change our lives,” she says. Due to its fuel efficiency it will also save the family money on purchasing fuel, which can be put towards other household essentials.

He then made a pitch for other businesses to follow suit:

By purchasing the credits generated from this project, businesses can help ensure two major threats to children’s health are tackled simultaneously – the impacts of climate change as well as respiratory infections and disease attributed to indoor air pollution.

For the businesses, this means they can help save children’s lives as well as boosting their own sustainability credentials at the same time.

M&S has provided the funding required to kickstart this project by purchasing the initial credits. UNICEF now needs other businesses to join them so that other mums like Metu can cook dinner for their family, without putting their children’s lives in danger.

You can read the whole article here.

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2 Comments

  • lynne featherstone 1st May '14 - 8:31am

    Good for Paddy to highlight this issue. Indoor air pollution is responsible for over 4 million deaths per year – new figures from WHO just released show. That is more than some of the major world diseases put together. I joined the Clean Cookstove Alliance last year – and today I am speaking at the Global ALliance for Clean Cookstoves in London – a pretty technical affair. Setting proper standards for what constitutues a good cookstove – as opposed to one that does nothing for the environment or peoples’ health is key. Hillary Clinton is hosting a huge conference on this in the autumn – and it is a major scandal that so many people – especially women – are dying of something so preventable. Well done Paddy.

  • Well done Paddy. I echo Lynne’s praise.

    One small point when it comes to indoor pollution. The cigarette is a major source of indoor air pollution. When Paddy writes — “This dangerous mix of chemicals, including carbon monoxide, can cause breathing illness such as pneumonia, lung cancer, as well as stunted development. For tens of thousands of children, it can be lethal.” he could have been writing about the products of Big Tobacco. When Lynne says Indoor air pollution causes millions of deaths she is also correct but she too could be talking about cigarettes.

    I do not want to take anything away from Paddy’s UNICEF efforts. But I would like people to be aware of the flood of funding into UK politics from front organisations for Big Tobacco. The IEA which advertises frequently in LDV and sponsors some groups within the Liberal Democrats is just such a front organisation. Is it not still the case that more than 90% of lung cancer cases are a direct result of smoking cigarettes. Indoor air pollution is not just about cooking pots in Bangladesh, it is all around us.

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