Firewood smoke is third largest killer of women, children in Nigeria- WHO

Children running errands during school hours in Northern Nigeria

72 per cent of Nigerians depend solely on fuel wood for cooking.

Smoke emanating from firewood used for cooking is the third greatest killer of women and children in Nigeria, statistics from the World Health Organisation, WHO, has revealed.

The organization said that 93, 300 deaths occur in Nigeria as a result of smoke from traditional biomass stoves.

“After malaria and HIV/AIDS, smoke is the biggest killer of mostly women and children.

“In addition to this health problem, traditional biomass stoves burn 90 per cent more wood than is necessary. This has cost poor families and institutions money that could be put to better use on education, health, and nutrition,” the global health body said.

Also, an estimated 72 per cent of Nigeria’s population depend solely on firewood for cooking, a non-governmental organisation, the International Centre for Energy and Environmental Development, ICEED, also said.

The Executive Director of the Centre, Ewah Eleri, said this in an interview in Abuja on Tuesday.

Mr. Eleri said that access to sustainable modern, affordable and reliable energy services was a fundamental prerequisite for poverty reduction and sustainable human development.


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He said that energy services had impacted on all aspects of people’s lives and livelihoods, adding that the lack of access to it constrained people to a life of poverty.

The director also noted that 20 per cent of the global population lacked access to electricity while 40 per cent relied on traditional use of biomass for cooking.

“The UN estimates that if nothing is done by 2030, 900 million people would not have access to electricity, and three billion will still cook with traditional fuels.

“Thirty million people would have died due to smoke-related diseases; just many hundreds of millions will be confined to poverty due to the lack of access to energy.

“Countries like China have connected 500 million people to electricity in rural areas since 1990, while Vietnam has increased coverage from five per cent to 98 per cent in 35 years.”

Mr. Eleri also observed that Cambodia, Mali and Madagascar had made significant progress by providing support to the private sector from their rural electrification funds.

He said more Nigerians are, however, reverting to other energy forms.

“Contrary to the expectations of the National Energy Policy of 2003, deepening poverty has forced a reversal in the transition to modern and efficient energy forms.

“Today, more Nigerians are climbing down the energy ladder, moving from electricity, gas and kerosene to fuel-wood and other traditional biomass energy forms.”

Mr. Eleri noted that women and children in rural areas had spent several hours fetching firewood, adding that such time could have been spent in activities that could empower them.

“Moreover, millions of open fires in Nigerian homes contribute to the build-up of greenhouse gases that cause climate change,” he said.

He said that pro-poor energy access, a project aimed at expanding electricity access to rural areas, was another method of changing the situation.

“It has the quantity and quality of energy services that are accessible, affordable and sustainable, and it also empowers both men and women, especially the poor,” he said.

The director, however, said the project would focus on measures to scale up low carbon electricity services and cooking energy.



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