Typically, cooking at home involves an electric or gas stove, a microwave, or an oven. For nearly 3 billion people mostly in developing countries, however, old and inefficient stoves in poorly ventilated kitchens are the only available options. These traditional cookstoves burn solid fuels such as firewood or coal, making them great for cooking, but also terribly unhealthy for members of the household exposed to the resulting smoke.
In fact, exposure to smoke from unclean cookstoves causes nearly two million premature deaths annually and is a major contributor to preventable noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as chronic respiratory illnesses and lung cancer. Women and children typically receive the greatest exposure to deadly cookstove smoke.
To tackle this pressing issue, the U.S. government has taken on a leading role in the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a public-private partnership aimed to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change by creating a thriving market for clean and efficient cookstoves. Other national governments, UN organizations, private corporations, NGOs, and actress Julia Roberts are also stepping up to address this issue. Announced by Secretary Clinton in September 2010, the Alliance is led by the UN Foundation and is an unprecedented attempt to create large-scale, sustainable solutions to the risks of cookstoves. The Alliance's "100 by 20" goal is for 100 million homes to adopt clean and efficient cookstoves by 2020, and the United States has pledged more than $50 million over five years to support this initiative. In terms of international collaboration, the Alliance is an historic achievement.
"Never before have we pulled our resources and our expertise behind a single global campaign," said Secretary Hillary Clinton in a September 2010 speech, "and never before have we had the range of global partners and coordination that the Alliance for Clean Cookstoves brings with it."
The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is a perfect example of what private and public organizations can achieve when they work together to combat NCDs, which kill over 35 million people worldwide every year. Such multilateral engagement will be featured as a critical strategy in managing the global disease burden of NCDs at the UN General Assembly high level meeting in September.