Here is something to chew on as you cook your next meal: There are three billion people gathering around open fires or primitive cookstoves in poorly ventilated homes around the world, preparing their next meal. They are breathing toxic chemicals that are up to 200 times above `safe’ levels, and as a result, close to two million are dying each year from this deadly cocktail. This is more than twice the number from malaria and it is mostly women and young children.
For several years, emissions from inefficient cookstoves have been acknowledged as a major health hazard, but governments and development institutions alike have continued to adopt a classic ‘silo’ or shall we say in this instance `stovepipe’ approach. While the issue cuts across sectors such as forestry, energy, gender, and environment, each ministry/ department has looked at it from their limited perspective. The result is that nothing much gets done, with each sector saying it is the other’s responsibility.
There is now a new program, led by the UN Foundation, that promises to be commensurate with the scale of the problem: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves on the sidelines of the MDG Summit in New York yesterday. The US has announced US$50 million to support the program―the goal is to raise US$250 million in the next 10 years, and have 100 million homes adopt clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels by 2020. The World Bank is going to participate in this program through the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), which is a global multi-donor technical assistance trust fund administered by the World Bank. This new public-partnership involving a major foundation, Governments of the US, Norway, Germany and Peru, multilateral agencies like the WFP, WHO, UNEP, and private companies such as Morgan Stanley and Shell may finally circumvent the `stovepipe’ malaise.