Health improvements through the Project
The Maasai live in a rapidly changing social and physical environment. Tanzania as a whole has made significant progress in reducing the death rate for children less than five years of age. Twenty years ago, it was at the level of about one child in six. Now it is fewer than one in ten.
It is difficult to determine where the Maasai fit into this picture. Historically, they have been behind their fellow Tanzanians because of the harsh conditions in which they live and some of their practices. There are traditional Maasai remedies for respiratory stress. The Maasai increasingly seek medical help from doctors and clinics but access is difficult.
Health problems due to polluted water sources
Our stove, with its smoke removal capacity, does a great deal to save the 25 per 1000 who would otherwise die of lung disease. But there are additional health issues we see in our Project villages. The health officials there tell us that 35 children out of 1000 die before the age of five from waterborne disease.
The prevention of waterborne diseases lies in getting the pathogens out of the locally-sourced water. Rural women, such as the Maasai, bring this water home to their families. Maasai water sources are very dirty. There are no wells. Nearly all water is collected from shallow ponds that fill the depressions that the people themselves or the government has dug out for catching rain. These ponds are polluted even where the people have been careful to keep livestock away.
The Project launched water pilot work in three areas, with very successful results. Read about our approach to safe water
Health problems due to smoke
Nearly all Maasai mothers have a sick child with respiratory stress. The Maasai associate smaller infant birth weight with enhanced survival rates. Therefore, women are not fed their normal diet during the last months of pregnancy, in the attempt to reduce the weight of the newborn. After birth, the mother and her new baby are restricted to living indoors. The smoke-filled home is particularly damaging for the underweight infants.
In addition to respiratory disease caused by particulates, there is the problem of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide at high enough doses causes the symptoms and stress on the body of severe anemia, because it inhibits the capacity of the blood to carry oxygen around the body. Our stoves allow for these improvements in health:
- Reduction of the polluting particulate level from cooking smoke by 90 percent, alleviating chronic coughing and head congestion, primarily in women and children
- Reduction of carbon monoxide levels in the home by 90 percent, eliminating low-level poisoning
- Eliminates the danger of burns to toddlers caused by open cooking fires in their homes
Our measurements of the carbon monoxide levels in the homes with traditional open three-stone fires, showed the shocking result that many Maasai were living right at the level of poisoning where symptoms begin to show.