By Scott Strand and Felipe Amaya Salazar
Around 85 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) still cook with wood, charcoal and other solid fuels. These traditional cooking techniques have dire effects on users’ health, environment and productivity.
Traditional cookstoves are causing a quiet epidemic among the global poor. Household air pollution from cookstoves is the fourth-leading risk factor for disease globally, killing more people than malaria and tuberculosis. This epidemic falls heavily on women and children, traditionally those bound to household work and exposed to cookstove smoke day-in and day-out. Poor women also shoulder the literal burden of gathering wood fuel for cookstoves, devoting on average 1.3 hours a day to the task. Residential fuel burning is also a noted contributor to climate change, taking responsibility for 25 percent of global black carbon emissions, about 84 percent of which is from households in developing countries.
Haiti, Guatemala and Nicaragua have the highest solid fuel usage in the Latin American region with 93 percent, 64 percent and 54 percent of their respective populations still relying on them. Even though LAC has made progress – only 3 percent of people who use solid fuels to cook are in LAC – more needs to be done.
Why do people continue to use these harmful cooking methods? In short, because better cookstoves are priced out of reach.
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