Air pollution is any harmful material that is present in the earth’s atmosphere. The causes of air pollution are many and highly varied. These include natural sources like volcanic eruption, forest and bush fires as well as the burning of fossil fuels. Experts in air pollution posit that while the earth does have built-in mechanisms for getting rid of air pollution, it is usually better for all human beings to reduce the amount of pollutants released into the air to begin with. Unfortunately most well-known and pervasive causes of air pollution are man-made. One can talk about the burning of petroleum products especially in the cities as a very common cause of air pollution. The experts also note that while man-made air pollution does present health hazards, natural causes of air pollution can be equally dangerous at times. These sources include dust picked up by wind erosion, the emission of methane by livestock, and smoke from wildfires and burnt rubbish at wasteland sites.
A World Health Organization (WHO) report indicates that eighty-seven per cent of the three billion people worldwide rely on inefficient traditional energy sources to cook and this adversely contribute to household air pollution. Another frightening aspect of the report is that women are mostly affected by the negative effects of cooking on open fires and traditional cook stoves. Given the fact that the use of gas to cook, is being promoted, majority of women still use open fires and traditional cook stoves for both domestic and small scale industrial activities such as extraction of cooking oils from groundnuts, coconut, palm nuts, palm kernel and shea nuts. In the three regions of the North in particular, the brewing of the local alcoholic beverage popularly called ‘pito’ is done on open fires and traditional cook stoves. The same applies to the production of ‘dawadawa’ used as a spice for soups. As a nation that has recently acquired a middle income status, there is an urgent need for inter ministerial and organizational collaboration to ensure universal access to modern energy for cooking and productive use of energy by the turn of the next decade. That explains why the Ministries of Environment, Science and Technology and Energy, the Energy Commission, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Ghana and Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves are collaborating to encourage innovation, improve access and quality of cook stoves and to ensure that women are economically empowered is scaled up.
Indeed there is absolutely the urgent need for strong partnerships to be developed among institutions, agencies and civil society organizations towards effective implementation of the action plan drawn up by the Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves dubbed “Ghana Sustainable Energy for All Country Action Plan”. Through this, lives would be saved, livelihoods improved, women empowered and climate change combated to create a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions.
BY: DAN OSMAN MWIN, HEAD OF THE PUBLIC RELATIONS UNIT OF THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH.