WFP is committed to helping people safely cook the food it delivers by addressing the various risks associated with cooking and access to energy.

Various Cooking Risks

The Dangers Of Cooking On An Open Fire

Cooking on open fires is one of the most serious public health and environmental problems in the world, with indoor air pollution being ranked by the World Health Organisation as one of the top ten global health risks. Billions of people worldwide burn biomass such as firewood, charcoal or animal dung on open fires or stoves to cook their meals- especially in humanitarian settings. In addition to these polluting emissions, the resulting inhaled smoke is a key cause of respiratory diseases, killing more than four million people every year. 

Women And Children Are The Most Affected

In developing countries, women and children under five years of age are particularly at risk. Women in most parts of the world are still mainly responsible for cooking their families’ meals. They spend a considerable part of their day collecting firewood and tending to a fire or inefficient cookstove, often with small children by their side, breathing in the harmful toxins from inefficient burning. Additionally, spending full days collecting and carrying firewood takes time away from other income-generating activities.

A Protection Issue

The lack of access to safe cooking fuel creates a serious protection issue in humanitarian settings, particularly for women and children who will often travel long distances to collect firewood. Every minute and mile spent outside of their homes and settlements increases the possible exposure to gender-based violence in conflict-affected areas. 

Withering Resources And Environmental Degradation

In many humanitarian settings, firewood is scarce, and refugees and host communities compete for the same resources. When facing desperate measures to obtain the fuel they need, people may chop down trees and uproot grasses. This harms the already fragile environment and increases the rate of deforestation and people’s exposure to more frequent climatic disasters, such as floods and droughts.

Burning biomass also accounts for 20 percent of global black carbon emissions, considered one of largest drivers of global climate change after CO2 emissions. Reducing these emissions has a positive impact on the earth’s climate while positively making a difference to people’s health.


Ensuring food has been cooked completely and water boiled for a lengthy period of time allows people to maximize the nutritional benefits of their meals and prevent food and waterborne diseases. This is especially important for people vulnerable to health risks, such as young children, pregnant women, and the elderly. In some cases, recipients of food rations have been known to sell part of their allocations to purchase fuel in order to cook the remaining food, further reducing the daily nutritional needs available to them and their families.

WFP's Cookstoves Innovations

WFP implements initiatives around the world that leverage the multitude of benefits provided by clean cookstove solutions, helping women and children, their families and communities, safely prepare food while protecting their environment. 

SAFE (Safe Access to Fuel and Energy)

Fuel-efficient stoves, protection & livelihood opportunities. 

Carbon Credits

Financing safe cooking to support livelihoods.