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Donors make it harder for Africans to avoid deadly wood smoke

Donors make it harder for Africans to avoid deadly wood smoke

Making the cleanest the enemy of the clean

Yvonne kayaya has never seen a gas cooker. In a poorly ventilated room in her home in Kasai, Congo, she stews potato leaves over a charcoal stove no bigger than a small stool—as generations before her have done. “I sometimes cook with firewood. If I have money, I always buy charcoal,” she says, unaware that both fuels are clogging up her lungs.

Ms Kayaya is one of the 4bn people who heat their food over a smoky fire. In sub-Saharan Africa nine out of ten people cook with dirty fuel, such as wood, charcoal or kerosene. This is unhealthy. Some 2.5m-4m people die prematurely every year because of indoor air pollution, most of which is from cooking, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency (iea) and the World Health Organisation. Breathing soot is particularly dangerous for infants: worldwide it may cause almost half of all fatal cases of pneumonia among children under five.

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