By Gift Briton

With household air pollution causing at least six in 100 deaths in Kenya, the country is set to become one of the first African countries to develop an action plan against this menace.

In this regard, the Office of the First Lady, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health Kenya, has organized a two-day workshop in Nairobi between November 15th and 16th to discuss and propose a joint work plan to end household air pollution in Kenya.

Anthony Wainaina, the Deputy Director of Public Health in the Ministry of Health, emphasized the importance of the action plan in accelerating Kenya’s action towards clean cooking targets.

While reading a speech on behalf of the Ministry, he noted that using biomass and fossil fuels in the health sector and households for lighting, cooking, and powering are among the primary sources of air pollution.

“Household air pollution is responsible for a 6% disease burden annually in Kenya, making clean air an important determinant of the population’s health and well-being. Clean energy is an essential service that goes beyond the requirement of clean cooking solutions in households but is also necessary to promote quality health at all levels of care through clean cooking. The action plan being developed is expected to play a significant role in achieving these objectives,” he noted.

Solomon Nzioka, the National Professional Officer for Public Health and Environment (NPO/PHE), WHO, emphasized the need to prioritize clean cooking solutions in the country to address the problem.

“While there are already partners with clean cooking options, the uptake has not been sustainable, and there is a need to walk together towards future prosperity. Empowering women to adopt clean cooking is crucial as they are unequally overburdened by air pollution,” he said.

He also stressed the need for political goodwill and the government’s prioritization of clean cooking solutions to accelerate a transition toward clean cooking.

Jeremiah Musso, the Team Lead for Climate Change Health and Environment at the WHO Regional Office for Africa, advised on how Kenya can accelerate the adoption of clean energy to address household air pollution.

He called for a systems approach, where stakeholders and duty bearers in the government, including the Ministry of Energy, Environment, Health, and Finance, work together to solve air pollution from their different perspectives, noting that there is still a gap in collaboration that needs to be addressed to achieve this goal.

“Systems approach involves working together to deliver solutions that address the root causes of air pollution, which would require a joint work plan to achieve the goal,” he said.

Musso also emphasized the potential of cross-sector collaboration to solve the air pollution problem, urging different players to support in various ways, including providing technology, innovation, capacity building, and accelerating finance.

He added that “collaboration among different sectors and ministries in the government is essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number seven.”

Eva Barmasse, representing Mama Doing Good, an initiative that implements programs of the Office of the First Lady of Kenya, shared some solutions on how the office economically empowers women by introducing them to income-generating activities, including venturing into clean and renewable energy.

“We believe that there is a viable business case for involving women in conversations and solutions around clean and renewable energy. In Kenya, household air pollution is caused by solid biomass, and many women cook with traditional biomass. The initiative aims to sensitize these communities to understand why they need to transition to clean cooking energy,” she said.

“Women lose time fetching firewood, and by exposing them to income-generating activities and providing clean cooking energy in the house, they can make money while contributing to the fight against household air pollution.”