We, the Executive Directors of the United Nations World Food Programme Ertharin Cousin, and UN Womens Michelle Bachele dedicate this Earth Day to the young girls who spend a full day in search of firewood, to the mothers who sell food rations to buy fuel for their family, and to the countless women who are forced to skip meals because wood is not available or unaffordable to cook their food.
Today, far too many refugees and women living in drought conditions are forced to walk into the bush to collect firewood. They venture into unsafe areas and are left vulnerable to rape and other attacks. They chop down trees and uproot grasses, harming the fragile eco-system.
Wood fuel consumption for cooking and basic household needs has become a major contributor to rapid deforestation and environmental degradation. Stripping land jeopardizes agriculture and contributes to the loss of valuable carbon sinks. And indoor air pollution from burning solid fuel is one of the top ten global health risks according to the World Health Organization.
This is why UN Women is working to ensure that women around the world are given equal opportunities and resources to become drivers of sustainable development—lending our voice for gender equality in energy access as a key component to combat climate change.
This is why the World Food Programme through its SAFE initiative, for safe access to firewood and alternative energy, is reaching more than 1 million people in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, providing fuel-efficient and clean cookstoves, supporting sustainable sources of fuel, such as tree planting, and helping women to develop alternative livelihoods to collecting and selling firewood and charcoal.
We know that if sustainable agricultural and economic development is to be translated into food and nutrition security, then the active engagement and empowerment of women is absolutely necessary. All over the world, women play their part in protecting the environment and ensuring adequate and nutritious food for every member of their households.