A simple technological intervention in the kitchen of poor households in the few villages of Rasuwa, Gorkha, Makwanpur and other districts have brought drastic changes in the health of women and children. Replacing the traditional open fire kitchen with smoke hood helped poor families with eradicating indoor smoke. As kitchen is also used as part of bedroom, indoor smoke remains a major health threat in the rural household.
At a time when the resource starved government is seeking a suitable technology to reduce the risks in the kitchen, Practical Action has come up with a solution by investing the seed money for select households of the rural poor to install the smoke hood.
Although it went unnoticed for decades, kitchen smoke has remained a major killer of women and children in rural Nepal. According to the studies made by Ministry of Health, Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) is a major health problem of women and children living in the Himalayan and hill regions of Nepal. Nepal Demographic and Health Survey 2011 has pointed out that ARI is responsible for premature death of children and women in rural Nepal.
Due to improper combustion in traditional wood stoves, complaints of chest pains, headaches and eye irritation are common in rural Nepal. However, just spending Rs. 5000.00 (equivalent to US dollar 50) can make a difference in the rural life.
“We have provided improved stoves and smoke hood in Rasuwa, Gorkha and Makwanpur districts,” said Min Bikram Malla, project manager Practical Action Nepal. “We have also supported to build smoke hood in emerging cities of urban poor under our SWASTHA project.”
Studies have shown that hundreds of people in Nepal die each year as a result of inhaling lethal smoke from kitchen stoves and fires which cause respiratory infections to women and children. “As per the government policies to provide support to rural poor, Practical Action Nepal has rightly made interventions through the right technology in rural Nepal. It will have larger implications in Nepal’s overall health system,” said Rabindra Kumar Shakya, member secretary, Social Welfare Council. The role of INGOs and NGOs need to be investing money in simple technologies with larger implications.”
After installation of the smoke hood, the people have felt the difference as it has reduced headaches or chest pains. It has also decreased the cooking time leading to efficiency in the use of energy sources. “Simple smoke hood can reduce smoke levels by 82 percent. In our projects, we have provided the seed money to start a village revolving fund for the sole purpose of smoke hood installation,” said Malla.
In Nepal, indoor air pollution results in the premature death of 8,700 people annually and indoor air pollution is the biggest child killer. But solutions are available: the simple smoke hood reduces indoor smoke levels by up to 80%.
“Working with communities in the remote villages, Practical Action has created the special smoke hood which is simple, cost effective and efficient, and is already helping save lives. The sheet metal smoke hood sits over the fire, drawing smoke straight out through the roof,” said Malla.
Although the number of population using the traditional energy sources for cooking and heating the homes has drastically reduced in Nepal’s urban areas, an overwhelming rural population and urban poor still rely on traditional fuel sources. The smoke generated from these fuels turns kitchens into death traps.
“As the number of ART patients continues to increase in the rural parts of Nepal, the intervention in the kitchen will be the first step to reduce the present alarming state,” Dr. Prabin Mishra, secretary to the Ministry of Population and Health told New Spotlight.
Practical Action has been campaigning for international action to fight the killer in the kitchen - smoke from cooking fires. Action is now beginning to be taken, with the launch of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a partnership between the US government and other nations along with charitable foundations.
Along with smoke hood, Practical Action is also promoting improved stoves can conserve the fuel and save the lives.
A shortage of fuel for cooking is one of the many problems faced by people in the rural parts of Nepal. Practical Action measures are tackling this issue through the use of more fuel-efficient woodstoves, which are both affordable and easy to use; cutting the amount of risky trips for firewood and allowing more trees the opportunity to grow. Subsequently, burning smaller amounts wood fuel means less smoke will engulf their homes and their lungs. Using just locally-available clay and bricks, the stoves can be made in a few simple steps.