Giving Compass' Take:

• The United Nations Foundation reports on the work of Nepali women health volunteers in providing health care and information to save lives during COVID-19.

• How can we all take the time to follow the lead of the Nepali women health volunteers in uniting to help everyone live more healthily? What are you doing to help support and inform groups without access to health information?

• Read more about how people around the world are uniting to collect data on and combat COVID-19.

Pollution from cooking fuels kills up to four million people each year. In Nepal female volunteers go door to door to check in on people’s well-being and encourage cleaner cooking. But COVID-19 prevents home visits, and makes it harder to protect a family’s health.

On a typical day, Bhetwal Saraswoti is awake by 5 a.m. She spends the early hours working in her fields in central Nepal, feeding her cattle and making breakfast for her family — all before starting her second job as a Female Community Health Volunteer (FCHV).

FCHVs have been familiar figures in Nepal since 1988 when women started volunteering their time to provide basic health care and health information to villages across the country. Lately, they have taken on a new issue: clean cooking.

The volunteers usually visit homes to monitor blood pressure and blood oxygen levels; now they also encourage people to switch to using clean cooking fuels by discussing the health, economic, and lifestyle benefits for the family and community. Encouraging people to change decades-old customs is hard, but the health effects of cooking with traditional fuels like wood and kerosene, with an open flame in a small space, are clear.

“The ceiling [of a home] becomes blackened, as are the women’s lungs,” says Dewti Sapkota, another volunteer in the FCHV program. “This also increases blood pressure and may lead to pneumonia.”

Dirty fuels are still used by millions of people around the world, and they contribute to the premature deaths of up to 4 million people each year because they generate high levels of air pollution inside people’s homes, causing a range of heart and lung illnesses. Making sure people understand the link between household air pollution and their overall health saves lives.

Read the full article about Nepali women health volunteers at United Nations Foundation