The United Nations Foundation and Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s Shell Foundation plan to help organize an effort to raise as much as $100 million over five years to provide clean-burning cooking stoves to the world’s poor, according to a document outlining the plan.
To combat what they call a significant danger to women’s health in the developing world, the two foundations are seeking cooperation and funding from other corporate, government, philanthropic and academic entities and have received “strong expressions of interest from other donors,” according to the document.
“Smoke from cooking with primitive technologies in the developing world is among the least-known public health catastrophes that humanity faces,” said Erik Wurster, carbon finance manager at E+Co, a nonprofit company in Bloomfield, New Jersey, that invests in clean energy projects in developing countries. “More people die each year from indoor air pollution from cooking than from malaria, yet malaria receives much more attention and resources.”
Smoke from poorly ventilated cookstoves contributes to the early deaths of more than 2 million people a year, according to the UN Foundation. Malaria kills 1 million people a year, according to the World Health Organization, and 343,000 mothers died in 2008 in childbirth or from related complications, the British medical journal Lancet reported.
Shell’s foundation and the UN Foundation, set up by Cable News Network founder Ted Turner, want to encourage research, development and manufacturing of clean-burning cookstoves and find “large-scale, sustainable, market-based solutions” to reducing risks from traditional cooking and heating practices in the developing world, according to the document.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will announce the project, called the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, tomorrow in New York at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, a conference on fostering development organized by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
The backers propose establishing a revolving loan fund to finance projects on advanced stoves and fuels, while campaigning to raise awareness about the dangers of cooking smoke.
The project will work with manufacturers to develop new stove technologies, and with governments to cut duties and tariffs to ease the introduction of safer stoves, the document says.
The project would build on efforts by groups such as the Darfur Stoves Project, in Berkeley, California, and Envirofit International, a Fort Collins, Colorado, nonprofit organization, that are developing and distributing cleaner-burning stoves.
Smoke inhalation is associated with lung cancer and respiratory infections such as pneumonia.
There are other risks: women and girls in Darfur are attacked while spending hours foraging for firewood in areas suffering from chronic deforestation.
“It became so common that women were abused that there became a term glibly used by aid workers -- firewood rape,” said Gerald Martone, director of humanitarian affairs at the International Rescue Committee, a New York-based non-governmental aid organization.
The Darfur Stoves Project, working with Boston-based Oxfam America, supplies fuel-efficient stoves in Sudan that can cut wood use by half or more compared with traditional cooking methods.
Envirofit has sold more than 120,000 clean-burning cookstoves in India.
Aid groups have tried to encourage the use of solar stoves, which use small arrays of mirrors to focus sunlight on a pot or cooking surface. They have found that many people cling to traditional cooking methods, so most efforts so far have focused on stoves that can burn wood, charcoal or other traditional fuels more efficiently.