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Cooking and pneumonia: can 'clean' stoves reduce infant mortality?

18 Aug 2014

Image © Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

The Cooking and Pneumonia Study (CAPS) has launched a video explaining the main aims of their work in determining the importance of clean cookstoves in preventing pneumonia in children under five years old in Malawi.

Malawi has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the developing world and pneumonia is the leading cause: around 300 out of 1000 children under the age of 5 are diagnosed every year. Exposure to smoke produced when biomass fuels (animal or plant material) are burned in open fires is a major avoidable risk factor for pneumonia.

The video, created by Handstand Productions and facilitated by the Medical Research Council partnership grant BREATHE Africa, describes the two year study that will track around 10,000 children aged under five years, living in randomised villages in Chikhwawa and Chilumba in Malawi. The homes of the children involved in the study are randomly selected to be supplied with either two clean cookstoves or to continue cooking on open fires in the traditional way. The clean cookstoves can reduce carbon monoxide emissions by up to 90% compared with traditional methods and children will have their carbon momoxide levels monitored throughout the study.

CAPS have reached significant milestones in terms of recruitment – it is now the largest trial of the effects of an advanced cookstove intervention on health outcomes conducted anywhere in the world. Thousands of cookstoves have been delivered so far, and the reaction among the participants appears to be very positive. One mother on the video talks about the additional benefits including faster cooking and the fact that it uses a fraction of the fuel needed for a traditional open fire.

The CAPS study is funded by a £2.7 million grant from the Joint Global Health Trials Scheme, a partnership of the UK Department for International Development (DfID), the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust. It is being implemented in Malawi through collaborative partnerships between the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, The Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme, the Malawi College of Medicine and the Malawi Epidemiology and Intervention Research Unit.


  • Categories: Research
  • Health categories: Infection, Respiratory
  • Strategic objectives: Lifestyles affecting health, International partnerships and shaping the agenda, Global health
  • Locations: Other
  • Type: News article