(c) Nathalie Bertrams

Smoke and Mirrors: Malawi’s untold crisis

Malawi
Health
Environment

Cooking smoke is a leading cause of illness and claims the lives of over 4.3 million people worldwide every year – more than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined.

Yet in Malawi and much of the majority world cooking over an open fire – often in poorly ventilated indoor spaces – is taken for granted. This mundane, deadly task leaves women, who bear the brunt of this work, and children, who spend time around their mothers in the kitchen, particularly vulnerable.

This immersive project, Smoke and Mirrors, uses photos, videos and infographics to show the scale and significance of the indoor cooking killer. Please click through to find out more.

Smoke and Mirrors: an immersive multimedia project about Malawi’s health crisis.
Smoke and Mirrors: an immersive multimedia project about Malawi’s health crisis.

Cooking with wood and charcoal also contributes to environmental devastation in the form of deforestation – Malawi has a 3 per cent annual rate of deforestation. Mr Aubrey Palani, Plantation Manager of the Dzalanyama forest reserve close to the capital Lilongwe, says that in five years there could be no forests left.

But safer, more efficient, and environmentally friendly alternatives already exist.

Our immersive feature on Malawi’s health crisis

Nathalie Bertrams and Ingrid Gercama, a Dutch photographer and journalist, have reported on Malawi’s health crisis.

This immersive project, Smoke and Mirrors, uses photos, videos and infographics to show the scale and significance of the indoor cooking killer. Please click through to find out more.

‘When there is too much smoke, I have to go for air and take a deep breath,’  says Tina Chirwa. ‘The smoke is giving me headaches and tears in my eyes. It makes me cough – I have a burning sensation in my chest.’

Her children cough constantly – and meanwhile she and other women have to walk for hours each day to collect firewood. In doing so they also contribute to the country’s deforestation.

Our immersive project explores the intertwined issues of Malawi’s health crisis and looks at the solutions and people affected.

This project was enabled by funding from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.

All photos by Nathalie Bertrams.

Text by Ingrid Gercama.

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