20
Aug

Eid al-Fitr Appeal Ease the burden of poverty and preserve the endangered environment of Iraq: Provision of solar cookers to 7000 poor rural families

                                          

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Iraq is a country ravaged by wars, a recent 25-year dictatorship and international sanctions. During the rule of Saddam Hussein, little or no importance was attached to developing the infrastructure of rural regions. Houses are built from a mixture of mud and straw and lack even the most basic amenities. Most villages do not have access to clean potable water and are not connected to the electricity grid. Using liquid gas as cooking fuel is out of the question due to the high cost of gas stoves and gas capsules.

During a recent visit to villages in the Najaf-Karbala region, LFT’s trustee found that villagers use two methods for cooking: The majority of families, living in abject poverty, use open wood fires for cooking, heating and lighting while a slightly more affluent minority uses appliances fuelled by kerosene.

In families using wood as fuel, women have to walk two to four miles every day to collect dry palm branches.  Due to the fuel they use, these families are subject to the dangers and health hazards resulting from using open fires: ·

  • Death resulting from asphyxiation. According to UN statistics, 1.6 million people worldwide die of asphyxiation due to the use of open fires in their houses. 
  • Household fires resulting from the use of open cooking fires in houses whose roofs are made of dry palm leaves. Family members sustain burns and families lose even the little they own within minutes. 
  • Exposure to inhalation of carbon mono-oxide. This dangerous gas can kill if inhaled in large quantities while constant low-grade exposure leads to brain damage in children and chronic headaches, memory loss and depression in adults. 
  • The elderly and people with coronary artery disease are especially at risk. Exposure also has grave consequences for pregnant women and affects the unborn child.

Collecting dry branches is not harmful to the environment, but with increase of the population, fuel becomes scarce. Women are either forced to walk farther and farther in the scorching sun or they damage trees by ripping off healthy branches. This leads to the destruction of trees and further erosion of the top soil and desertification in a region already hit by drought.

While using primus stoves is a little safer, health hazards remain. Inhalation of kerosene fumes is equally harmful, fires may still occur and it often happens that children ingest kerosene, assuming that it is water. Ingestion of kerosene requires hospital treatment and can be fatal. Kerosene is not readily available throughout Iraq. Many times families have to purchase kerosene on the black market at elevated rates. In the villages surveyed by LFT’s trustee, families estimated that they spend $25 5o $35 per month on kerosene.

Although the water villagers have at their disposal is untreated well or river water, which is severely polluted, due to the scarcity and high price of fuel it is impossible to boil water for drinking purposes, let alone for washing.

All this is the case while Allah gave us a readily available and infinite source of energy: sunshine.

A simple solar cooker can boil water or cook food in a short time without the described health hazards and without the slightest harm to the environment. Solar cookers are inexpensive. The latest version is made of sturdy plastic that won’t break even if hit by a football. As the cookers surround the cooking pot like a box, it is rather unlikely that a child would accidentally knock it over and sustain burns.

Although it is very easy to use the cooker, LFT will train a person to instruct families how to use it correctly.

In the first phase of this project, LFT intends to provide families living in the following villages in the surroundings of Karbala: Barakat al-Zahra district, Al-Mahdiyeh Village One and Two, al-Nedhal Neighbourhood and al-Wala’ Neighbourhood as well as to families living on isolated desert farms.

About 7000 solar cookers will be needed to provide every family in the mentioned locations with a cooker. The cost of each cooker will be £15, including transportation and administrative expenses. Total project cost will therefore amount to £105,000.00

Dear LFT donors: Please, participate in this effort to ease the burden of poverty for poor Iraqi families in rural areas and at the same time protect the environment. A mere £15.00 will provide a family with the means to cook their food and boil water completely without cost.

Signed: Ms Zainab A H Bilal – LFT Representative in Iraq

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