Combating the Silent Killer in Nepali Homes

WHO - Nepal increases awareness on the dangers of household air pollution and promotes benefits of cleaner cooking alternatives.

Residents of Paanchkhal, Kavre, attending an interaction program on the dangers of household air pollution organized by WHO, Country Office for Nepal.
WHO – Nepal/ S. G. Amatya

July | Kavrepalanchowk, Province 3

Approximately 77% of Nepal’s population relies on traditional sources of fuels (mainly firewood and animal dung) for cooking [1], and household air pollution is becoming one of the leading risk factors for ill health in Nepal, causing around 24,000 deaths each year [2].

“In such scenarios, women and children are bearing a large share of associated health burden from indoor household air pollution”, states Dr. Jos Vandelaer, WHO Representative for Nepal.

To promote the use of clean household energy solutions and improve livelihoods, WHO - Nepal has been conducting a series of community interactions on dangers of indoor air pollution as a pilot project. The interaction targets 772 households of Paanchkhal and Mandandeupur Municipality of Kavrepalanchowk district. Local representatives and local health workers were also invited for discussions with the residents.

During the interactions, local health workers reported that the residents were facing a myriad of health problems - eye and skin allergies, asthma, cough, and other acute respiratory infection - and that these were common symptoms of exposure to indoor house pollution by cooking with firewood, cow dung, egg crate, sawdust, rice husk, straw, shrubs, corn cobs, and plastic.

After residents learned about the dangers of indoor air pollution, they also stated that they never paid any heed to deadly smokes inside their own homes and were not aware that symptoms such as coughing and asthma can lead up to life-threating ailments, such as stroke and pneumonia. On the contrary, residents considered smokes even beneficial, as they are used as mosquito repellants during summers.

Strengthened commitment to promote smoke-free kitchens is needed to reduce energy poverty, for example by providing discounts and access to clean cooking technologies, and even repair biogas plants which were damaged by the earthquakes.

Residents of Paanchkhal, Kavre, attending an interaction program on the dangers of household air pollution organized by WHO, Country Office for Nepal.
WHO – Nepal/ S. G. Amatya

Meanwhile, in another program to advance the benefits of cleaner cooking alternatives and further combat indoor air pollution, WHO - Nepal trained key stakeholders on the usage of a new WHO tool that calculates the health and financial benefits of clean cooking, enabling researchers to effectively communicate the burden in monetary values, and integrate the results into policy-making processes. “Most importantly, this valuable resource can help policymakers include appropriate amounts in their budgets to address health implications arising from indoor air pollution”, stated Raja Ram Pote Shrestha, National Professional Officer for Environmental Health at WHO – Nepal, at the training program.

Nepali researchers can now position themselves to become the first in the world to adopt this WHO tool that also incorporates costs of treating related illnesses, understand the financial benefits from a healthy population, and accelerate progress towards achieving Nepal’s sustainable goals.


[1] AEPC. Biomass energy strategy

[2] WHO country estimates of burden of disease from household air pollution for 2016.