Africa: WHO Director-General's Remarks At the Summit On Clean Cooking in Africa - 14 May 2024

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press release

Your Excellency President Gnassingbé of Togo,

Your Excellent President Bio of Sierra Leonne,

Your Excellency President Hassan of Tanzania,

Your Excellency Prime Minister Støre of Norway,

IEA Executive Director Birol,

ADB President Adesina,

Honourable Ministers, fellow panellists, colleagues and friends,

Bonjour à toutes et à tous, it's an honour to be here.

And I thank Tanzania, Norway, the IEA and the African Development Bank, for your leadership on this critical issue and for co-chairing this event.

I will join my brother Akin actually in saying, I'm talking here today not only as Director-General of WHO, but as a child who witnessed the problem with clean cooking.

I thank the presence of all political leaders and I'm really glad to see that because that will give political momentum.

As you know, breathing and cooking are essential for life.

And yet for millions of people, they are a cause of disease and death, from stroke, cancer, heart disease, lung cancer, pneumonia and more.

WHO estimates that every year, 3.2 million people die from household air pollution generated by dirty fuels and stoves for cooking.

And around one-quarter of the world's population still depends on wood, charcoal, dung, and crop waste as their primary energy source for cooking, including more than 900 million in sub-Saharan Africa, and that number continues to rise.

Women, children, and marginalized communities are the worst affected.

Polluting fuels are a threat to the health of people - and the health of our planet.

As President Samia said earlier, household air pollution is one of the leading sources of black carbon, a powerful, short-lived climate pollutant.

In some places, the use of polluting fuels for cooking contributes to almost half of all ambient air pollution, or indoor air pollution.

This is not only a technical problem, but one deeply entwined with poverty, development, and infrastructure.

To solve this challenge, we need leadership and partnership.

We need political leadership, and I thank Your Excellencies President Hassan, President Macron, President Gnassingbé, President Bio, Prime Minister Støre for demonstrating that leadership today.

And I hope you will continue to mobilise your colleagues to join you.

We need financial leadership, and I thank the ADB for the significant commitment today, US $2 billion, also to European Union, to Prime Minster Støre, and those who are making pledges today.

We need technical leadership, which is where WHO can make the biggest contribution.

By the way, Prime Minister Støre told you about his work in WHO in the past. So I think WHO is represented through him and me, and with clarity from WHO, the full support we can give to this very important cause.

We have a long history of supporting countries with recommendations, tools and technical resources to reduce air pollution and the disease it causes.

And fourth, we need partnership. We need each other.

Our meeting today is a powerful demonstration of the different strengths we all bring, and I commend the IEA for bringing us together, and thank you Mr Birol, and for the technical consultations you have done to prepare for this Summit.

WHO is committed to working with you, and with our fellow UN agencies, to accelerate access to clean cooking fuels as a top development priority.

In 2018, we created the Health and Energy Platform of Action, bringing together a strong network of countries, UN agencies, civil society organizations, researchers and other development partners to accelerate access to clean cooking for health.

And together with our partners at the World Bank, we recently released the first Global Roadmap for a Just and Inclusive Cooking Transition, which outlines the strategy to eliminate cooking poverty and promote net-zero clean cooking for all.

In March next year, WHO will host our second conference on air pollution and health, and clean cooking will be high on the agenda.

Thank you all for your political leadership; the financial leadership; the technical leadership; and the partnership that you are demonstrating today.

My thanks especially to the IEA for mobilizing this broad coalition of partners to support some of the most vulnerable populations in my continent Africa.

WHO welcomes and affirms the Clean Cooking Declaration.

Because breathing and cooking should always be a source of life, not a cause of death.

Mercia beaucoup. I thank you.

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