Poverty can be dangerous in all kinds of ways we don’t normally think about. Take cooking dinner, for instance. The job falls to woman in most parts of the world, and that job is often a smoky, choking chore conducted over open flames. It’s estimated that 2 million women die each year from exposure to all that smoke and the toxins that come with it. And smoke from cooking fires contributes to the deadly pneumonia that so often strikes children in developing countries.
On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton announced that a collection of governments, NGOs and private companies is coming together to distribute cookstoves that are better for both the environment and the people using them. The best part of the plan is that there will be no one-size-fits-all stove going out to Ecuador, Indonesia and all points in between. Instead, participants will choose the stove that suits them best.
“If local tastes are not consulted, [the stoves] will stack up and not be used,” Secretary Clinton said at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, where she announced the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Read the Christian Science Monitor article here. The plan is to have 100 million new cookstoves in place by 2020.
Providing improved cookstoves has long been a tenet of many Heifer projects around the world. The stoves cook food more quickly and cleanly, preserving human health and saving trees that might otherwise get chopped for fuel.
What animal kills more people than any other? If you’ve vacationed anywhere that requires those dizziness-inducing anti-malarials lately, you probably already know. Pesky mosquitoes are far more than just pesky. For the million people each year who succumb to malaria, they’re deadly.
Writer Constance Casey cozies up to the tiny assassins today in an article in Slate, where she offers the gloomy stat that most deaths from malaria occur in children under 5. But she’s also a mosquito apologist of sorts, pointing out that most mosquitoes don’t bite people, and the detestable bugs are an important part of the food chain. Good points, but I’ll still swat any potential bloodsuckers coming my way.
When traveling to areas where malaria strikes, I’m always struck by how nonchalant survivors of the disease can be. A friend in Senegal brushed off my worries about what could happen to him when the rainy season started up and the mosquitoes came out in full force. “Oh yeah, I’ve had malaria lots of times,” he told me, shrugging his shoulders like it was no big deal. I suppose that attitude makes sense considering that there’s a limit to how much people in malaria-endemic areas can do to keep themselves safe, and living in a perpetual state of panic isn’t going to help anything.
One problem is that poor people are far more vulnerable to malaria. Their houses often lack screens to keep the bugs out, and they’re far more likely to have to work outdoors where they’re vulnerable to bites. The poor are also less likely to seek treatment in time because visits to the hospital can be prohibitively expensive.
It’s frustrating to think that humans have been battling this tiny opponent for centuries and the victory is not yet ours. In the spirit of knowing your enemy, give Casey’s article a read.