Silent and Deadly
Friday, September 24, 2010
AFTER vaccines and bed nets, could the humble cooking stove be the next big idea to save millions of lives in poor countries? Hillary Clinton, America’s secretary of state, hopes so. She was marking the launch on September 21st of a new alliance that aims to raise $250m to supply clean stoves to 100m poor households by 2020. It is headed by the United Nations Foundation, a charity. Among its backers are governments (chiefly America, which has put up an initial $50m), charities (the Shell Foundation) and private firms (Morgan Stanley, an investment bank).
Around two billion people have no access to modern energy, and a billion have it only sporadically. The smoky stoves that many of them use, the World Health Organisation reckons, produce particulate pollution that causes around 2m premature deaths a year. Makeshift cookers also catch fire easily, maiming and killing. And lives are not the only things wasted. Women and girls in rural villages lose time and energy walking around collecting dirty solid fuels, ranging from crop waste to cow dung (better used as fertiliser).