Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire -- and Diseases, Deforestation, and Deadly Burns

As part of the Spring Into Action campaign running from April 16 – May 1, we will be posting daily about topics related to extreme poverty and how anyone and everyone can join the movement to end it. Imagine yourself sitting around a fire pit with your closest friends on a weekend camping trip. S’mores are being made, Starburst are being roasted, and laughter abounds. Life couldn’t be better. And then it happens. 

The smoke from the fire starts blowing directly into your face. Your friends try and get you to stay put by making some ridiculous comment about “smoke following beauty.” But all you can think about is the burning in your eyes and how you can’t breathe without choking on fumes. Have you mentally moved to a new spot yet? ‘Cause your eyes are watering and your marshmallow is on fire.

Now imagine that a smoke-filled environment is your daily reality. In the rural homes of extreme poor individuals worldwide, women cook on open fires in their enclosed homes, where the smoke has no escape. Women and children spend the majority of their time in the kitchen, preparing each meal for the day. The results are disastrous.

  • Indoor smoke pollution (largely carbon monoxide) caused by cooking on open fires results in severe respiratory diseases and eye infections.
  • According to WHO, burning solid fuels (including wood, crop waste, charcoal, coal, and dung) results in airborne small soot particles that deeply penetrate the lungs.
  • Children often receive third-degree burns from touching/playing with the open fire and have limited access to medical care.
  • Significant deforestation occurs, as lots of wood is required to fuel open fires.

CHOICE is working with local leaders and community members to construct clean stoves within the homes of these individuals. These stoves use significantly less firewood (⅔ less than an open fire, to be exact) and all of the smoke is channeled outside through a chimney system. Since less time is required to collect solid fuel, women have more time to focus on entrepreneurship opportunities and the overall well-being of their families. Furthermore, since the fire is safely contained inside the stove, children are no longer getting seriously burned. And the best part? The overall health and quality of life for women and children is drastically improved.

Today, share this blog post to raise awareness about this important issue! #ThinkAboutIt


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