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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Emory: Water Filters, Efficient Cookstoves Improve Health in Vulnerable Rwandan Populations

A large-scale program to deliver water filters and portable biomass-burning cookstoves to Rwandan homes reduced the prevalence of reported diarrhea and acute respiratory infection in children under 5 years old by 29 percent and 25 percent, respectively, according to new findings published in the journal PLOS Medicine

The results suggest that programmatic delivery of household water filters and improved cookstoves can provide a scalable interim solution for rural populations that lack access to safe drinking water and rely on traditional fires for cooking.

“After neonatal disorders, pneumonia and diarrheal disease are the two leading killers of children under 5 years of age in Rwanda and much of sub-Saharan Africa,” says Dr. Thomas Clasen, professor of environmental health at Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, who led the health impact study. “The results of this randomized controlled trial provide strong evidence that effective interventions can be successfully delivered and embraced by a population at risk, even in remote rural settings.”

Unsafe drinking water and household air pollution are major causes of mortality around the world. An estimated 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, more than a third of whom rely primarily on open wells and untreated surface water that can be contaminated with human and animal feces.

Cooking indoors on traditional open-fire stoves with solid biomass fuels such as wood and charcoal has been linked with pneumonia, low birthweight, and impaired development in children. Household air pollution is also associated with pulmonary and cardiovascular disease in adults. More than 80 percent of Rwandans rely on firewood as their primary fuel source.

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