Healthy Air Healthy Housing

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Around 3 billion people rely on biomass fuels to cook their food and heat and light their homes. Biomass fuels such as charcoal, animal and crop wastes, and wood burn inefficiently and release hazardous gases and particulate matter- collectively referred to as indoor air pollution (IAP) into the air. In substandard housing that lacks sufficient ventilation, concentrations of IAP can become deadly. Up to 50% of respiratory infections, the most significant cause of death for children under five, can be attributed to IAP exposure in the home. Women and young children are at disproportionately high risk of IAP exposure as they are frequently responsible for cooking and spend much of their time within the home.

Improving ventilation within the home is essential for protecting health. Though redesigned indoor cookstoves and fuels that reduce IAP emissions are available, the adoption of these new stove types and fuels has been slow due to pervasive cultural norms and culinary practices, high purchase costs, and the unstable availability of improved fuels. Improving ventilation, however, extends the protection of improved stoves and fuels, without requiring families to abruptly alter their traditional cooking preferences or access specialized fuels.

In Ethiopia, 98% of the population regularly uses biomass fuels. This heavy dependence on these fuels means that millions are at risk of deadly, yet preventable, respiratory disease. ARCHIVE Global is working in collaboration with PHE Ethiopia Consortium to develop the Healthy Air, Healthy Housing project in Addis Ababa. Fifty families with young children will directly benefit from ventilation improvements to their homes. Additionally, the project seeks to raise awareness of the health risks of indoor air pollution, as well as the potential to improve ventilation and use locally-available, improved cookstoves to reduce the risk of respiratory infections.

Following the completion of Healthy Air, Healthy Housing, the risk of respiratory disease attributable to IAP exposure will be reduced by 70% for over 250 residents. Through a series of IAP and respiratory health trainings, ARCHIVE and its partner will raise awareness among thousands of community members about the connection between IAP exposure and disease, and the simple strategies that reduce exposure in the home.

The fast approaching target date for the Millenium Development Goals inspires innovative and replicable solutions to development problems. Modifying homes to improve ventilation and reduce the health risks associated with IAP addresses four of the MDGs; MDG 1 (end extreme poverty and hunger), MDG 4 (reduce childhood mortality), MDG 6 (combat AIDS, malaria, and other diseases), and MDG 7 (environmental sustainability).

The health problems associated with indoor air pollution are not restricted to Ethiopia. This issue can be addressed on a global scale; housing modifications can serve as a model to be replicated in other locales with a similarly urgent need for curbing IAP-related illness.