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New evidence on health benefits of switch to clean fuels in Africa

Women cooking in smokey kitchen

Published: 02 February 2024

Switching from polluting fuels such as charcoal to gas, brings significant health gains.

This is the latest research completed by the NIHR Global Health Research Unit on CLEAN-Air(Africa).

Across sub-Saharan Africa, around 80% of homes use solid fuels for cooking, heating and lighting. These fuels include firewood, charcoal and kerosene . Pollution from burning these causes more than 680,000 premature deaths each year.

The new study shows that using clean gas for cooking or heating can lower the risk of death and a range of health conditions. These include:

  • pneumonia
  • wheeze
  • cough and breathlessness
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • bronchitis
  • asthma
  • severe respiratory illness

This is the first systematic review with meta-analyses that has assessed all health effects from use of gaseous fuels. This is compared to both polluting fuels and electricity, for household cooking, and heating on a global scale.

CLEAN-Air(Africa) is a partnership of public health experts from academic, research, and clinical institutions from the UK, Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda. It is co-led by the University of Liverpool and Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI).

The partnership works with governments from each country and encourages clean cooking for households and schools. In Kenya, CLEAN-Air Africa has now trained 2,500 instructors across all 47 counties. These instructors will go on to train 120,000 Community Health Workers, with the aim of reaching Kenya’s entire population. It partners with various ministries, banks and credit unions to reach women.

The paper, ‘Estimated health effects from domestic use of gaseous fuels for cooking and heating in high, middle and low-income countries: A systematic review and meta-analyses’, was published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal.

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