When Cooking Dinner is a Matter of Life and Death
For millions of women around the world, cooking the family meal is a daily, dangerous chore. Sweating over smoky open stoves, they put their lives and their children at risk every day.
More than three billion people, or 40 percent of the planet's population, still rely on open fires to cook, balancing a pot on top of some stones, under which burns a fire fueled by wood and coal, dung or left-over crops.
“Before we had just a dirt floor in one of the corners of the kitchen, where we would build a small fire, and we'd put a metal stand over it for the pots. There was so much smoke in the house all the time,” Maria Itzep Chiguil said.
“The children had a lot of problems with their eyes, and with their throats and congestion,” the 35-year-old mother of four told AFP, speaking by phone with the help of a translator, from her home in the Guatemalan highlands.
The World Health Organization estimates that reliance on solid fuels is one of the 10 most important threats to public health.
Some two million people die each year from the effects of smoke inhalation, mainly children under the age of five who fall prey to respiratory illness such as pneumonia.
Burns and injuries from falling pots and from clothes catching on fire are also a serious problem.
Collecting tonnes of firewood is also a laborious, time-consuming and hazardous process. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo for instance one woman is estimated to be raped every hour, many while out foraging for fuel.
Environmental damage is huge as forests are depleted and black carbon from inefficient fires counts for upwards of 25 percent of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, while homes become coated in black grease.