A quick poll: What is the #1 cause of death in children under 5 years old?

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Water-borne diseases?

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Malaria?

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Malnutrition?

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No. None of the above.

The #1 cause of death in children under 5 around the world is disease caused from indoor air pollution.

Small children can spend up to 7 hours a day strapped to their mother’s back in smoky environments such as the one shown above (Ghana, January, 2008.). The World Health Organization estimates that breathing in the air from solid fuel smoke is responsible for 37.5% of acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI) in children under 5. Mothers are more likely to suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

There are a couple different methods for tackling this problem, but the most common is to intervene at the source level. Improved cooking stoves. Improved fuels. Yet no matter how effective or cheap these interventions are, there’s always one common barrier: cultural acceptance.

In November, 2009, a workshop held in Thailand aimed to tackle this problem. Based on all the presentations, they will develop a Research Road Map “to guide the effort to improve cook stoves in a way that would lead to steady-state production and dissemination of 100,000,000 stoves per year.”

Sounds great, right? Yes, if they can pull it off. But before they can even get to the steady-state production level, they need an improved stove that’s not only cheap but culturally acceptable. This workshop can produce the most efficient stove in the world, but if people don’t like the way it makes their food taste then they’ll continue to use their traditional methods. (EnterpriseWorks has done a pretty good job of this so far, although there are some issues with dealers altering the clay lining composition of the stove which reduces cost but also quality.)

Once they’ve got their product, they need to bring it to markets, convince people that their stove is better than what is currently used not only in terms of emissions but also in terms of food taste and quality as well.

100,000,000 stoves per year? I’m looking forward to reading this Research Road Map.

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