More than 100, 000 people die from complications arising from inhaling fumes from traditional smokes, a situation that experts say may place it among the country’s number one cause of death after malaria and AIDS.
The sad fact, however, is millions of people from Lagos, the commercial nerve of Nigeria, to Sokoto, a suburb in the northern part of the country, are not aware that the wood smoke emits toxins which cause eye problems, lung and heart diseases and an increase in the risk of strokes.
Experts say, even when aware of the dangers, the “silent energy crisis” may be a deterrent to the use of kerosene, gas or energy-efficient wood stoves.
Hamzat Lawal, an official with the International Centre for Energy, Environment and Development in Nigeria, says electrical stoves are not currently on the agenda because most people in Nigeria don’t have access to electricity.
He explains that those that have power, have it sporadically – sometimes only a few hours a day, adding it has been difficult to get kerosene, gas or energy-efficient wood stoves in the hands of the people – most of whom cook on traditional wood stoves.
The International Centre for Energy, Environment and Development (ICEED) is one of several organizations in Nigeria lobbying for new policies that increase the supply- and demand- for safer stoves. In a statement on its website, www.iceednigeria.org, it noted that about 90 million Nigerians still use traditional stoves despite its health risks.
“Traditional cooking methods are a health risk, they cause deforestation and climate change, and they are unnecessarily expensive to some of the world’s poorest people,” the statement reads in part. “90 million Nigerians, and almost all public institutions, cook with wood on the traditional “three-stone fire.
“Clean cookstoves save lives, money and our forests. So why doesn’t everyone have one?
“Despite the many benefits of clean cookstoves the market to supply them is undeveloped. This stems from both policy and market failures: a lack of education about the benefits of clean cookstoves, weak government policies, poor stove quality and insufficient access to finance.”
In a recent study, the ICEED warns of a deepening North and South divide in access to energy services. According to the report, “Northern Nigeria is consistently lagging behind in the proportion of households connected to the grid.
Ewah Eleri, Executive Director of ICEED, paints a glooming picture of the challenges ahead.
“Not only has rural electrification fallen out of the policy radar of the Federal Government, Nigeria has no history of tackling the crucial issue of cooking energy,” he said. “About 95, 300 Nigerians die every year from smoke coming from firewood use. At 0.4kg/person, Nigeria has one of Africa’s lowest per capita use of LPG or cooking gas – a paradox for an LPG exporting country”.
And Lawal, it’s not just the men and women who cook who are in danger.
“Our mothers carry our younger ones on their backs. And that smoke also affects them. So, over time we get to lose some of these children from the effects of the smoke,” he said.
BY OLUSOLA BABARINSA, WITH AGENCY REPORTS – Daily Times NG.