Wood smoke from cooking fires poses a number of health risks for women across the world.
Pneumonia is one of the critical diseases that affects women from Traditional Authority (T/A) N’kula in Machinga and surrounding areas due to the smoke they inhale in the kitchen when cooking using firewood.
But thanks to the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (Cadecom), the problem is dying out following the introduction of mud stoves.
Cadecom field officer in Machinga Barnan Binali said apart from lessening pneumonia cases; the stoves also preserve the environment and money.
“These stoves use little firewood; hence, there will not be wanton cutting down of trees for firewood in our forests. On the other hand, if these women make the stoves at a larger scale, they can turn them into a business to support their households without entirely depending on their husbands,” he said.
Cadecom is implementing the energy saver stoves with support from Troicare and targets at least 20 villages in the district.
One of the project beneficiaries Lucy Machemba said it was shocking to find majority of women in the area regularly suffering from pneumonia for spending too much time in the kitchen cooking.
She said the energy saver stoves are made from clay and produce little smoke.
“Since we started using them, there has been a drastic decrease of pneumonia in this area because the stoves can also be used outside where smoke diffuses in the air,” she said.
Two 2011 studies led by University of California, Berkeley, researchers spotlight the human health effects of exposure to smoke from open fires and dirty cook stoves, the primary source of cooking and heating for 43 percent or some 3 billion members, of the world’s population.
Women and young children in poverty are particularly vulnerable, according to Berkeley.edu.
In the first study, the researchers found a dramatic one-third reduction in severe pneumonia diagnoses among children in homes with smoke-reducing chimneys on their cook stoves.
The second study uncovered a surprising link between prenatal maternal exposure to wood smoke and poorer performance in markers for intelligence quotient (IQ) among school-aged children.