3 billion people around the world cook, eat, sleep, and work around their indoor fires and old cookstoves every day. The toxic exhaust leads to more than 1.9 million premature deaths annually, and is the 4th worst health risk factor in developing countries.
Imagine you're outdoors, cooking over an open fire. You watch the firewood burn as the smoke dissipates into the sky. You breathe in and out normally because the smoke has been absorbed into the air. Breathing is perfectly safe.
Now imagine that you’re using the same cooking method, but this time, you’re indoors, surrounded by four walls and a ceiling. The smoke has nowhere to go and accumulates inside to the point where it is permanently charring the walls. You and your children sleep, eat, and work around this stove, inhaling the toxic smoke all day, every day.
For 3 billion people worldwide, this is a very real situation. An average Guatemalan family has six members living in one-room homes made from wood, plastic tarps, and corrugated sheet metal. They use primitive cookstoves made from rocks and mud that burn all day--not just for cooking but also for warmth--just steps away from where they sleep. The smoke they inhale leads to several health risks including emphysema, cardiovascular disease, and lung cancer--and claims 4 million lives each year, according to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Women are constantly exposed to toxic gases from indoor fires and old cookstoves as they are typically the ones cooking and staying at home, dramatically increasing their risk of illness.
To keep the fire burning, women and children gather firewood daily, walking miles to collect up to 20 lbs of wood each trip, at least twice a day and carrying it on their heads, shoulders, and backs. Imagine if you were a child and this is what you did all day instead of going to school, playing with friends, and preparing for a future. Girls and young women are also especially vulnerable to physical assaults while gathering biofuels.
As for the environment, gathering biofuels, namely firewood, leads to deforestation and climate change regionally and globally from black carbon and methane emissions.
IGNITING HEALTHY CHANGE
Good Neighbors has a solution. We launched Project Cookstoves in Guatemala, an initiative that builds new, energy-efficient cookstoves for families and allows us to promote education, health, and environmental protection. Each new cookstove uses locally-sourced materials, requires less firewood to be burned throughout the day, and incorporates a chimney that pulls the smoke outside of the home, making the air safe to breathe.
We extensively research our beneficiary families, all of whom have an average of six members in their household and make less than $3.00 USD per day. With every cookstove that is donated, families are required to sign an agreement to enroll their children in school and ensure they attend each day. Families are also encouraged to take pride and ownership of their new stove by actively participating in its construction. In addition, each beneficiary family is provided with health care seminars and education programs, and they’re monitored in the following months to measure their children’s progress in school and record changes in their health.
MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
We’re committed to the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), an initiative to cut global poverty in half by 2015. See our infographic below to learn how Project Cookstoves aligns a solution to each of the eight goals.