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Helping Moms in Ethiopia Breathe Easy

Esayas (right) lives with his Aunt Senait and is studying hard to become a doctor.

Every morning, Senait woke up before dawn to cook breakfast for her large family in the cool of the day. 

Bending over an open fire, she stirred familiar sauces and poured injera—that ancient bread. To some of us, this may sound like an idyllic morning on a good camping trip. 

But for Senait, breathing thick wood smoke day in and day out was a potential death sentence.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “The biggest health threat from smoke is from fine particles [...]. These microscopic particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system, where they may cause burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses, such as bronchitis. Fine particles can make asthma symptoms worse and trigger asthma attacks. Fine particles can also trigger heart attacks, stroke, irregular heart rhythms, and heart failure, especially in people who are already at risk for these conditions.”

Cooking meals over open fires are one of the most dangerous tasks mothers in developing countries undertake, and they do so on a daily basis.

Senait had to wander long distances to find, collect, and carry firewood home. She faced the risk (and realities) of burns from the open flames, of falling into the fire when she became lightheaded from the carbon monoxide. Worst of all, she inhaled incredible amounts of smoke daily, for years. At just 32 years old, Senait was already extremely vulnerable to heart, lung, and gastric diseases. And so were her children.

So when she visited her friend Aleminesh one day and watched her cooking on a fuel-efficient mud stove, she was understandably intrigued. 

The fuel-efficient stove conserved firewood, dramatically reduced the amount of smoke in the kitchen, and had the added benefit of baking injera to perfection. 

That same day she contacted the Food for the Hungry (FH) staff member living in her community to find out how she could get one for herself. With advice from the FH worker, Senait bought her own cement and quickly began building a fuel-efficient stove. Talk about a life-changing DIY project!

Senait is thrilled with her new stove.

“When I cooked in the traditional way I had to rise early to bake injera because the heat is unbearable during the daytime. But now, I am baking at lunchtime, as you see me now.”

Senait's health is steadily improving. 

Household activities are becoming easier as her breathing normalizes; her burns are few and far between. And she doesn’t have to spend so many hours foraging for firewood.

Fuel-efficient stoves introduced by FH are rescuing hundreds of mothers (and children!) from the dangerous effects of breathing wood smoke from open fires.

Injera is a sour flatbread made from teff flour—an ancient Ethiopian grain.


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Food for the Hungry: Helping Moms in Ethiopia Breathe Easy
Helping Moms in Ethiopia Breathe Easy
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Food for the Hungry
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