Michael Olugbode, Maiduguri
The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (UN-FAO) is distributing 11,000 stoves to families in Borno State.
5,000 stoves had already being distributed with 6,000 more to be distributed before the end of the year, in an effort to checkmate cases of respiratory problems associated with cooking with firewood.
According to a statement by Patrina Pink, the spokesman of UN-FAO in Maiduguri, she said in order “to support families who urgently require sustainable access to fuel and energy, FAO has been distributing fuel-efficient stoves in Borno, home to the region’s largest IDP population. About 5 000 stoves have been supplied to families (one per household) in 10 locations since May, with 6 000 more planned until the end of the year reaching an estimated 11, 000 families in 2018.”
She said: “In IDP camps like Bakassi and across northeastern Nigeria, there is a great need for fuel and energy for cooking and other domestic activities. However, with many IDPs jobless or in precarious manual labour arrangements, few can regularly afford the NGN 100-150 (USD .27 to USD .40) average daily cost of firewood, the main source of fuel. In effect, families end up selling a portion of their food assistance to pay for household expenses.”
She said: “Cooking using the traditional stove can be cumbersome,” she added that Mallama Abubakar, a resident of the Bakassi camp, claimed it can even be dangerous: ‘’We are happy to get rid of the Murfu, she said, referring to the Hausa (local language) name for cooking on three or more large stones propping up heavy pieces of firewood.”
Abubakar said: “It is making many of us women sick, especially in the chest and eyes,’’
Pink said: “In Monguno, Borno State, where she (Abubakar) lived before the insurgency, she was a roadside food vendor and knows all too well the impact of a constant exposure to heavy smoke.”
She said: “The smoke affects our babies too because we sometimes tend to them as we cook. When we are breastfeeding, smoke enters their eyes and mouths.’’
Pink noted that Nigeria’s Ministry of Health has said that respiratory illnesses caused by smoke inhalation are the third highest cause of death in the country.
Pink said stoves lessen the demand for firewood by 65 per cent and drastically cut the amount of smoke produced compared to traditional cooking methods. FAO’s stove distributions are funded by the Government of Norway under a project being carried out as part of the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) global programme.
She said they have found out that the search for firewood for traditional cooking can also be dangerous, adding that: “The security officers tried to stop us when we go to bushes to search for firewood,’’ according to Awah Ahmed, also a resident of Bakassi.
Ahmed said: “When you go into the bush you can easily be attacked by Boko Haram. They can take your money, rape or kill you. So we fear going into the bush for wood.’’
A gender-specific activity in much of Northeastern Nigeria, firewood collection is usually tasked to women and girls. By extending the life of firewood, the stoves will reduce the need for these groups to look for fuel and energy in unsafe and insecure places, thereby decreasing their risk of facing gender-based violence beyond the camps.