|Charcoal sellers in Haiti in 2004. Most of Haiti's forests have been cut down, largely to provide wood for cooking fuel.|
The World Health Organization says half of the world’s population burns wood, coal, animal waste or other solid fuels. More than three thousand million people use solid fuels to cook and to heat and light their homes.
But people who burn these fuels often breathe in large amounts of smoke. This can lead to pneumonia and other diseases. Children are especially at risk.
The W.H.O., the United Nations health agency, recently published a report about the dangers of solid fuels. The report says these fuels are the cause of one and one-half million deaths each year.
Two out of three deaths happen in Southeast Asia and in Africa south of the Sahara Desert.
Among the victims are an estimated eight hundred thousand children and five hundred thousand women. Experts say indoor pollution also kills two hundred thousand men each year.
The World Health Organization says there has been little progress since nineteen ninety in supplying more people with modern cooking fuels.
The report discusses what it would take to cut the use of solid fuels in half by two thousand fifteen. To do that, almost five hundred thousand people every day would need to gain modern energy services. But experts say gains in health and productivity would more than pay for the costs required.
The W.H.O. estimates a yearly cost of thirteen thousand million dollars to supply liquefied petroleum gas to half the people now using solid fuels. It says that investment would result in yearly economic gains of ninety-one thousand million dollars. Other kinds of fuel would cost more.
Eva Rehfuess wrote the W.H.O. report. She says there are simple solutions that could help people in the short term. These include cleaner-burning stoves and better systems to clear the air in homes. She says longer-term solutions include a change to cleaner cooking fuels such as liquefied petroleum gas, biogas, ethanol or plant oils.
Miz Rehfuess says users would pay most of the investment costs, but some public investment would be needed to start the process.
The report is called "Fuel for Life: Household Energy and Health." It can be found on the World Health Organization Web site at w-h-o dot i-n-t (who.int). Enter the words "Fuel for Life" in the search box at the top.
This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Lawan Davis. Read and listen to our reports at voaspecialenglish.com. I’m Steve Ember.