Over 33,000 Tanzanians die annually for using firewood for cooking

Pauline Chale, a pulmonologist from the Muhimbili National Hospital, Tanzania's leading public medical facility, said using charcoal or firewood was among the main causes of respiratory illnesses.

A Tanzanian medical specialist said on Tuesday that at least 33,024 people, mostly women, die annually in the east African nation from breathing smoke caused by solid fuels for cooking, including charcoal and firewood.

Pauline Chale, a pulmonologist from the Muhimbili National Hospital, Tanzania’s leading public medical facility, said using charcoal or firewood was among the main causes of respiratory illnesses.

She made the remarks in a panel discussion, entitled “State of Cooking in Tanzania”, at the start of a two-day Clean Cooking Conference in the Tanzanian port city of Dar es Salaam moderated by Tanzanian Minister of Energy January Makamba.

The conference aims to research and suggest strategies for achieving affordable, clean, and reliable cooking solutions.

“Women and children are the most affected groups as they spend many hours a day in the kitchen exposed to high levels of pollutants,” said Chale.

According to statistics made available at the conference, biomass accounts for close to 90 percent of the primary energy consumption in households in Tanzania, where 63.5 percent of the households use firewood as the main source of cooking energy, and 26.2 percent use charcoal.

The statistics by the Ministry of Energy also show that 5.1 percent of households use liquefied petroleum gas, 3 percent use electricity and 2.2 percent use alternative energy sources.

Remidius Ruhinduka, a lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, warned that the continued use of solid fuels for cooking is detrimental to both human health and the environment.

“If we don’t act now to stop using charcoal or firewood for cooking, we will experience devastating consequences,” said Ruhinduka.

President advocates for clean cooking

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Tuesday directed authorities to form a national task force of experts that will make a roadmap for promoting the use of clean energy for cooking.

Hassan said the national task force, to be headed by Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa and coordinated by the Ministry of Energy, will help end the use of charcoal and firewood for cooking which caused environmental destruction and health hazards.

Opening the first Clean Cooking Conference in Dar es Salaam, Hassan said the task force will be assigned to ensure that 80 percent of Tanzanians use clean energy for cooking in the next ten years.

The two-day conference aims to achieve a common understanding among stakeholders on the state of clean cooking in Tanzania and share lessons and experiences in tackling the challenge of biomass cooking.

“Forests are being wiped out at an alarming rate in Morogoro, Lindi and Ruvuma regions for making charcoal and firewood. This must stop,” said the president.

She said her administration will, in the 2022/2023 financial year, allocate a budget for the establishment of a fund aimed at supporting research, technology and innovation on clean energy cooking.

Hassan ordered the Ministry of Energy to ensure that institutions with more than 300 people, including schools, hospitals and prisons, shift from using charcoal for cooking to using clean energy, including liquefied natural gas.

Minister of Energy January Makamba said the conference will serve as a platform for a dialogue to facilitate the east African nation’s transition to increased use of clean energy.

“The government of Tanzania is committed to improving the lives of Tanzanians by reducing and ultimately removing the health, environmental and social impacts of biomass cooking,” said Makamba.

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