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Journal Article


van Niekerk A. Inj. Prev. 2022; 28(6): 497-498.


(Copyright © 2022, BMJ Publishing Group)






Energy impoverished communities are those that are reliant on 'traditional' solid fuels, such as wood and coal, and flammable hydrocarbons, such as paraffin (or kerosene). These fuels are typically burnt in inefficient, polluting and unsafe stoves. Energy poverty is pervasive with about 2.6 billion people that use these fuels for cooking or heating their homes.1 ,2 The health and economic consequences for these communities are far-reaching, and for many families even catastrophic. Energy poverty is a significant contributor to poor health, including burn injury and poisoning, and through household air pollution a sizeable contributor to the global climate crisis.3

The injury and health outcomes are widely reported in Africa, Asia and South America, and especially manifest in communities that rely on fossil fuels. The use of paraffin in particular, has been associated with greater risks for injury, either directly through stove explosions and candle fires, or indirectly through scalding while cooking on structurally deficient or insecure stoves, and through poisoning after ingestion, and other ill effects after toxic fume inhalation. The widespread use of unsound stove technology presents an ignition risk that is amplified in dense, 'informal' urban settlements. In these urban conurbations, which continue to expand across Africa, Asia and elsewhere, dwellings are typically made or 'clad' with wooden boards or other flammable material, with a dense internal layout, and where dwellings are close to each other. Thus, 'accidental' fires are often triggered by a faulty paraffin appliance and may lead to a widespread and devastating community conflagration.

Beyond its injury and health impact, the socioeconomic ramifications of energy poverty are enormous, constraining development in the affected countries while simultaneously contributing to the global climate crisis.3 The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 7 has recognised the multiple impacts of energy impoverishment and globally formalised the call for an inclusive transition to safe and health-promotive energy. However, the management of such an energy transition, especially one that specifically favours the impoverished will not be easy, and most likely constrained by the needs of global corporate interests, capitalist profit driven economies, and global and regional institutional incapacity to support such an energy transition...

Language: en


Poverty; Populations/Contexts


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