United Methodist Committee on Relief

Improving Health with Smokeless Stoves

Families in Nepal live in a cleaner environment and have better health with smokeless stoves

By Susan Kim*

May 31, 2016 — How much difference does one smokeless metal stove make in a household? For families in Pamlathum, a remote village in Nepal, a single stove can create a positive change that lasts for generations.

In Pamlathum, women often spend six hours a day in confined spaces, cooking on stoves that spew poisonous fumes day in and day out.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is partnering with Rural Integrated Development Services - Switzerland (RIDS), to assist villagers who want to improve their lives while keeping their traditions intact.

RIDS is helping villagers install smokeless stoves, and families in Pamlathum are finding a decrease in respiratory and eye diseases. In addition, families are using less fuel. This means women and girls no longer spend seven hours a day collecting firewood. Families are living in a cleaner environment, and now have more time to spend on other chores or on learning new skills.

It is important to understand that life in Nepal is much more than the beautiful snow-capped mountains many people see in postcards or on a vacation trip, said Alex Zahnd, who works with RIDS. He has spent 32 years working in Nepal.

“You have to go under the skin of tourism,” he said. “Unless we go beyond that, our impact will be minimal. You have to live there, you have to stay there, and you have to know the culture.”

The needs of the whole person

In addition to smokeless stoves, RIDS is also helping villagers obtain high-altitude greenhouses, water, pour-flush latrines, and hygiene education.

Addressing needs in a holistic way will help villages for years to come, Zahnd said, and life expectancy will ultimately rise. “We have villages — many villages — that don’t give names to children before they are five years old because 50 percent of them die before they are five,” he said.

UMCOR intentionally chooses partners that have both experience and passion for the communities in which they work, said Mike Barbee, technical officer for UMCOR’s Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) program.

“Through partners such as RIDS, UMCOR works to improve the lives of people on their terms, not according to what outsiders think should happen,” said Barbee. “When people are able to improve their own basic resources related to clean air, clean water, and sustainable daily practices, they change the course of life in their village in a positive and lasting way.”

Your gift to UMCOR Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH), Advance #3020600, supports projects that are making a difference.

*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to

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