People's Stories Wellbeing

Polluting indoor cooking fuels kill 4 million people a year
by Nita Bhalla
Thomson Reuters Foundation
Nov. 2019
Meagre investment is hindering countries'' ability to meet a global target to ensure universal access to clean, modern cooking fuel by 2030 and end the millions of deaths caused by indoor pollution every year, say clean energy experts.
Three billion people globally cook with dirty solid fuels such as charcoal and wood on open fires or traditional stoves that produce high levels of carbon monoxide, killing four million people annually, says the World Health Organization.
The use of dirty fuels for cooking also contributes to deforestation and climate change - accounting for approximately 2 percent of global carbon emissions, equivalent to annual air travel emissions, according to the World Bank.
Businesses developing solutions ranging from energy efficient cooking stoves to biomass renewable fuels have mushroomed in recent years, but many lack funds to offer affordable products to poor communities in the developing world.
"No one''s life should be limited by the way they cook, yet globally three billion people depend on polluting open fires or inefficient harmful stoves to cook their food," said Dymphna van der Lans, CEO of the Clean Cooking Alliance.
"Despite its far reaching benefits, clean cooking is too often seen as a second tier priority.
"The level of funding in the sector falls far short of sufficiently matching the global magnitude of this challenge," she said, referring to a clean cooking target set by countries as part of 17 goals know as the Sustainable Development Goals.
Total investment in clean cooking businesses was $40 million in 2017. The Clean Cooking Alliance estimates $4 billion is required annually to ensure universal access to cleaner options of cooking by 2030.
With population growth outpacing the number of people gaining access in clean cooking by four times, World Bank officials warn that 2.2 billion people will still not have access by the end of the next decade if current trends continue.
Campaigners attribute the failure to attract credible funding to multiple factors.
The industry has a much lower profile than other social business sectors such as solar energy and microfinance, which attract high levels of funding, while many countries lack specific policies to promote the sector, they say.
One of the biggest challenges to attracting investment is consumer demand, say clean energy experts.
Many communities lack awareness about the harmful health and environmental impacts and see a clean cook stove as an unnecessary expense when firewood is free.
"People have been cooking traditionally for hundreds and thousands of years and it''s difficult to move away from that," said Olivia Coldrey, lead finance specialist from Sustainable Energy for All.
"So if you take a rural women who has always cooked using firewood, it''s difficult to get her to change her behaviour by saying I am going to give you a cook stove and you are going to pay for it."
Coldrey said countries needed to treat the dangers faced by dirty cooking in the way they responded to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and a global campaign should be launched to promote awareness - not just for consumers, but also donors and investors.
"We haven''t eradicated HIV AIDS, but we''ve made people''s lives a lot easier," she said. "We need a similar sort of campaign giving out a simple message - after all, it''s killing millions of people."

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South Sudan floods: 800,000 people desperately need food, water and shelter
by NRC, Oxfam, OCHA, Unicef, agencies
Somalia / South Sudan
26 Oct 2019
South Sudan floods: 800,000 people desperately need food, water and shelter. (Oxfam)
Approximately eight hundred thousand people are at risk of disease and extreme hunger as a result of devastating floods that have hit South Sudan, Oxfam warned today.
Unusually heavy rainfall has hit 29 counties across the country, causing widespread displacement. Areas where Oxfam operates, including Akobo, Pibor and Lankien, have been severely hit. Houses have been destroyed and many areas are submerged and inaccessible. People have lost their crops and livestock and many schools and health clinics have been closed, as they are either flooded or have been converted into relief shelters.
With heavy rains forecast for at least another two weeks, the situation is likely to get much worse before it gets better and the risk of a major outbreak of waterborne diseases including cholera increases by the day.
Sajit Menon, Oxfam humanitarian manager in South Sudan, said: “The scale of these floods is unexpected; at this time of the year in South Sudan the dry season is usually about to start. The cruel fact is that thousands of people in the areas hardest hit by the floods were already going hungry. People who were struggling to survive have had what little they had washed away by this extreme weather.
"People managed to reach safety on high ground but are left with no food and no clean water or sanitation. Disease is as much of a threat as hunger. They also need basic shelter, as their homes have been damaged or completely destroyed. We have witnessed pregnant women carrying their belongings and their older children in their arms, while wading through knee deep mud, with nowhere to go.”
Oxfam is assessing the needs of those worst hit by the floods. In the coming days, together with other agencies, it will start distributing temporary sheeting, soap, buckets and other hygiene items, to over 45,000 people in Lankien, Akobo and Pibor. Oxfam needs urgent funding to help the people worst affected.
Menon said: “The flooding is impeding the humanitarian effort. In a country with only 200km of paved roads delivering aid is always a challenge – but the floods mean we need extra resources to reach those in need. And we must do it fast before it is too late - thousands of lives are at risk.”
25 Oct 2019
Severe flooding affects hundreds of thousands. (OCHA)
Abnormally heavy seasonal flooding has been devastating large areas of South Sudan since July, with an estimated 908,000 people affected. This includes internally displaced people, refugees and their host communities. The rains are likely to continue for another four to six weeks and put more people at risk.
Entire communities are submerged. Health facilities and nutrition centres are filled with water or used to shelter people who have fled the flooding. Reduced access to basic services and markets have increased people’s vulnerability. Diseases are spreading with contaminated water. Access to hygiene and sanitation is limited, especially for women and girls.
“I am extremely concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the floods. The United Nations is responding in coordination with the Government. Our first priority is to save lives and uphold people’s dignity,” said Alain Noudéhou, the Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan.
The heavy rains have hit areas that were already facing high humanitarian needs. Across the 32 flooded counties in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Warrap, Eastern Equatoria, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity and Lakes, more than 3 million people were in need of assistance even before the rains, out of the over 7 million people in need countrywide. More than 60 per cent of the flood-affected counties are currently classified as facing extreme levels of acute malnutrition.
“The good news is that the United Nations and its humanitarian partners were already working in these areas before the floods. We are now scaling up and will be able to help people quickly, especially once the water levels reduce and access improves,” said Noudéhou. Aid groups urgently require some US$ 35 million to respond.
Immediate priorities include water purification tablets, plastic sheeting for temporary shelter, mosquito nets, and medicine for malaria, diarrhoea and other waterborne diseases. Food and nutrition support will also be delivered.
The crisis will not be over when the water levels recede. Considerable damages to crops, arable land and livestock are anticipated. Families’ ability to support themselves will be hampered for months to come. With classroom affected by the flooding, parents will face serious challenges to re-enroll their children.
“More needs to be done in the longer term to rebuild people’s livelihoods and strengthen their resilience to future disasters. This requires collective and sustained action by the Government, donors, and development and humanitarian partners,” said Alain Noudéhou.
The number of climate-related disasters has doubled over the past 20 years globally, causing lives lost, growing displacement, ruined livelihoods, deteriorated food insecurity and malnutrition. Every year 20 to 25 million people are displaced within their country due to extreme weather events often linked to climate change.
Oct 2019
Conflict and drought displace 300,000 in Somalia so far this year. (NRC)
Over 300,000 people have been displaced due to drought and conflict in Somalia so far this year. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said insecurity is making it virtually impossible for humanitarians to provide aid in rural areas and is resulting in vulnerable people moving to overcrowded camps in urban areas for assistance.
“The crushing effect of drought has stripped rural communities of their crops, livestock and water sources, while armed conflict closes in on their homes. We are now likely to see 2.1 million Somali people suffering from hunger by December and into 2020,” said Victor Moses, Country Director for NRC. “This population needs aid. But when insecurity restricts us from delivering it, many people are forced to leave conflict-hit areas to seek it out.”
A total of 302,000 people were displaced between January and September this year according to the UNHCR and NRC-led Protection Return and Monitoring Network (PRMN). Conflict and insecurity accounted for more than half of all displacements (158,000) while drought (126,000) caused extreme hardship for many. ‘Flooding’ and ‘other factors’ were cited as drivers of displacement for more than 20,000 others.
The lethal combination of conflict and drought has resulted in displaced mothers like Faduma Abdinor Mohamed (39) struggling to feed their families.
“There’s no harvest from the farms. My children lost their father because of conflict, and we don’t have a farm or any livestock. The children lack education and food. I’m a woman, I have no opportunity to help my children. I have no job opportunities,” she said.
The PRMN recorded the highest number of displacements in July with almost 52,000 people arriving at overcrowded camps and settlements looking for food (39 per cent), livelihoods (19 per cent) and shelter (18 per cent). The period coincided with the end of a very poor harvest season and steep increase in the price of staple cereal grains.
Furthermore, Somalia is home to some 35,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers mainly from Ethiopia and war-torn Yemen, and an additional 38,000 Somali refugees that have returned from Yemen since March 2015.
“Somali people that fled the country for protection elsewhere are now coming back to find themselves in a desperate situation. Armed conflict restricts opportunities, the impact of drought is severely affecting livelihoods and more often than not, people end up relying on aid to survive,” Moses added.
This year’s UN humanitarian aid appeal for Somalia has requested $1.08 billion for humanitarian programmes in 2019, marking it one of the largest crises in the world. Only 62 per cent of the appeal is funded and is unlikely to meet the target by the end of the year. NRC is urging donors and governments to increase emergency aid for the Somalia crisis, reiterating that an already disastrous humanitarian situation risks deteriorating even further if needs aren´t met.


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