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Project Seeks to Cut Deaths, Build Market for Clean Cookstoves

Smoke rises as an Indian woman cooks a mid-day meal on a traditional oven in Calcutta in 2007

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This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced a plan to get cleaner-burning cooking stoves into developing countries. The plan aims to reduce deaths caused by smoke from the traditional use of solid fuels and open fires.

Almost half the world's people breathe smoke from coal and biomass fuels like wood, dung and crop waste. The smoke can lead to lung cancer, heart disease, low birth weight and other problems. It also increases the risk of pneumonia, a leading cause of death in young children.

Women and children are most at risk because they spend the most time in the kitchen. Also, in areas of conflict, the search for fuel puts women at increased risk of violence.

The goal of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is one hundred million homes using safer cookstoves and fuels by twenty twenty.

Secretary Clinton said last week in New York that clean stoves could make as big a difference in the world as bed nets or vaccines.

HILLARY CLINTON: "The World Health Organization considers smoke from dirty stoves to be one of the five most serious health risks that face people in poor, developing countries. Nearly two million people die from its effects each year, more than twice the number from malaria. And because the smoke contains greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, as well as black carbon, it contributes to climate change."

Founding partners in the alliance include governments and United Nations agencies, nonprofit groups and the energy company Shell. The alliance hopes to raise at least two hundred fifty million dollars within ten years. The United States has promised to donate more than fifty million dollars over the next five years.

The aim is to create a strong global market for clean cookstoves. The alliance will identify target markets and work to get women involved in business operations. It will also develop indoor air-quality guidelines, test clean stoves and fuels and develop "research roadmaps."

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has donated six million dollars towards the effort. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says the problem of cookstove pollution is really an issue of poverty.

LISA JACKSON: "This is in many ways the ultimate environmental justice issue. We can't fix everything in their lives immediately but today we're starting a process to help them meet the most basic human need -- cooking a meal in a way that won't cause them harm."

And that’s the VOA Special English Development Report, written by June Simms. You can read and listen to our programs -- and learn more about projects in the developing world -- at I'm Steve Ember.