When we think about tackling the biggest diseases in developing countries, we usually first think about diseases like HIV, malaria etc. which are, without a doubt, important diseases to tackle. But we often forget the simplest and most common diseases that still kill the most children worldwide, especially in developing countries like pneumonia and diarrhoea.
Pneumonia is the leading killer of children under 5 and responsible for every 6th childhood death. In 2015, every single hour over 100 children died from pneumonia (UNICEF, 2016), totalling up to 920,000 deaths. Pneumonia is a respiratory infection in the lungs that can be caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi. It does not only make breathing painful but also restricts it.
Household Air Pollution
Girls and women are more vulnerable to contracting pneumonia, as more than 50% of all pneumonia infections are attributed to inhaled household air pollution (WHO, 2016). According to the WHO (2016), 3 billion people cook and heat their homes with unprocessed solid fuels using open fires causing a total of 4.3 million people to die prematurely each year. Pneumonia only makes up to 12% of these deaths. Other illnesses include strokes, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.
Prevention of Pneumonia
Pneumonia can be easily treated in countries with sufficient health infrastructure, access to hospitals and health care which is, especially in rural areas of developing countries, not accessible. Therefore, prevention is a crucial part when it comes to improving health in rural areas. One of such prevention methods are smoke-free cooking stoves, as cooking stoves are a major contributor to household pollution.
Sanito’s Smoke-Free Cooking Stoves
Smoke-free cooking stoves are a wonderful and effective way to prevent these kinds of respiratory diseases. The stoves built by REMO and financed by Sanito on Ometepe, Nicaragua, are not only properly built but also redirect the smoke out of the house through a pipe, reducing household air pollution and, consequently, inhaled fumes. Next to this, they also benefit the environment as they need less solid fuels and are built by local women. Therefore, the project does not only improve health and benefit the environment but also empowers women; this combination is definitely a foundation we should build on.
(1) Household air pollution and health (WHO, 2016) http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs292/en/
(2) One is too many, Ending child deaths from pneumonia and diarrhoea (UNICEF, 2016) https://www.unicef.org/publications/index_93020.html