Peru: Health in Andes gets boost from cleaner cooking

16 Sep 2010

Lima - A partnership to help clean up air and reduce waste from cooking fuels in households of the Peruvian Andes has contributed to dramatic improvements in family health, according to an impact survey completed earlier this year.

The initiative, called “Sembrando”, led by Peruvian non-governmental organization Instituto Trabajo y Familia (ITYF) has been supported by UNDP since it began in 2007.

“Sembrando” has equipped 47,000 households in extremely poor rural areas in seven regions of Peru, mainly in the northern province of La Libertad, with energy-efficient stoves over a period of three years, 2007-2009.

The low-cost wood-burning stoves, fitted with a chimney pipe directly from the kitchen, were designed to halt the release of cooking fumes inside the mostly stone or brick houses, and conserve heat, keeping households warmer at altitudes of 2,500-5,000 meters above sea level.

A survey of 2,185 households using the new stoves in La Libertad’s region of Sanchez Carrion, showed a drop in 2009, by nearly one half, in the number of families who experienced bronchitis and respiratory diseases more than seven times in 2007-2008.

Results of the survey, released in April this year, showed that women and children face higher risks because of extended periods spent indoors. One stove recipient, Miriam Aguilar Rodriguez (pictured here), reported savings in time and resources from the improved condition of her children’s lungs.

The high risk of respiratory diseases, and other related illnesses, for families exposed to cooking fumes was also highlighted when the Government of Germany’s development agency, GTZ, carried out a consultation during development of the energy-efficient stoves for the Andes.

“Interviewers could not cope with the smoke produced by the eucalyptus firewood to the point where they were coughing so hard that they had to leave the room,” according to a GTZ report produced during the research.

Diseases associated with air pollution are among the main causes of death in the 30 percent of Peruvian households nationwide that use open stoves. Some of the highest levels of poverty in Peru are found in communities where wood and other solid fuels are the main cooking and heating sources.

The success of the project - carried out with funds principally from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and also with UNDP funds and technical and planning support - was one of the drivers behind the launch in June last year of a national campaign under the banner “Half a million kitchens for a smoke-free Peru”.

The campaign was launched with the objective of raising the quality of life of those in extreme poverty in fourteen regions: Huanuco, Pasco, Junin, Apurimac, Huancavelica, Ayacucho, Puno, Cusco, Ancash, La Libertad, Cajamarca, Amazonas, Loreto, Piura.

“The achievements of the Sembrando project contribute considerably to human development at these altitudes where communities are predominantly poor,” said UNDP Resident Representative in Peru, Rebeca Arias.

“They help to reduce inequality, responding to at least five of the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs],” said Arias, referring to the eight global development targets that will be reviewed in a high level summit at UN headquarters in New York next week.

The MDGs aim to substantially reduce poverty and hunger; empower women; increase access to essential services of education, healthcare, clean water and sanitation; reduce the incidence of specific deadly diseases; protect the environment; and forge strong global partnerships for development.

Between 2002 and 2008 the percentage of Peru’s population living in extreme poverty dropped from 23.9 percent to 12.6 percent. By the MDG achievement year of 2015 the goal is a further reduction to 11.5 percent.