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Air Pollution

Volume 451: debated on Tuesday 7 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what steps the Government are taking to combat the damage to health caused by indoor air pollution in developing countries; (99098)

(2) what steps the Government have taken to combat the environmental causes of acute lower respiratory infection in children in the developing world.

The International Energy Agency estimates that about 2.4 billion people worldwide depend on traditional biomass such as charcoal, wood and straw to meet their daily household cooking and heating needs. This is often burnt inefficiently and is a source of indoor smoke pollution. It causes ill health, especially for women and children who tend to receive most exposure. The World Health Organisation estimates that 1.5 million deaths a year in developing countries are attributable to indoor smoke, with millions more suffering from chronic respiratory illness. Solutions include more efficient cooking stoves, cleaner fuels and proper ventilation. Changes in behaviour through better awareness of the dangers can also make a significant difference.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), air pollution and possibly second-hand tobacco smoke are to blame for an estimated 42 per cent. of lower respiratory infections in developing countries. The UK has pledged to increase its share for the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), providing approximately £140 million over the next four years. The GEF supports sustainable energy and transportation initiatives that reduce pollution.

However, lower respiratory infections in developing countries are mainly associated with indoor air pollution related largely to household solid fuel use. The International Energy Agency estimates that about 2.4 billion people worldwide depend on traditional biomass such as charcoal, wood and straw to meet their daily household cooking and heating needs. The smoke produced causes ill health, especially for women and children who tend to receive most exposure. Around 1.5 million deaths a year are in developing countries attributable to indoor smoke, with millions more suffering from chronic respiratory illness. The solutions include improved more efficient cooking stoves, cleaner fuels and proper ventilation. Changes in use behaviour through better awareness of the dangers can also make a significant difference.

DFID is the second largest contributor to the World Bank's Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP). We have made core contributions to ESMAP of £0.5 million in each of the last four years. In 2002, we agreed with the Bank that household fuel and health be taken up as a major theme. As a result, the programme has worked in five developing countries, looking at health impacts, improved cooking stoves and cleaner fuels. An example is DFID funding in 2002 of approximately £0.5 million for an ESMAP programme in four provinces in China on new stove and ventilation technologies.

The UK also supports the work of Practical Action (previously the Intermediate Technology Development Group), the Partnership on Clean Indoor Air (PCIA) and the Global Village Energy Partnership (GVEP). This includes programmes that aim to improve energy access and reduce the huge environmental costs of solid fuels.