Ahmad Masoud, founder and director of CI member Consumers Rights and Services Organization, documents the state of consumer rights in Afghanistan via his monthly blog. In this latest instalment, he reveals the high cost of unsafe cookers and contaminated fuels.
Sources in the Ministry of Public Health say that out of 24,000 burn cases reported last year, 234 people succumbed to their wounds. According to the figures, the majority of the victims are children younger than 14 and women.
Thousands of people use gas cylinders for cooking, lighting and heating purposes as the majority of people in Afghanistan do not have access to electricity.
Afghanistan imports gas cylinders from neighbouring countries and there are various brands of imported and domestically-made pressure cookers available in markets.
Most people cannot afford to buy high-quality pressure cookers or gas cylinders; therefore, they go for the cheaper ones. There have been reports that petrol mixed with diesel has been sold as kerosene which is widely used in kerosene lamp and stoves. It is often the cause of fire.
Early this year, fourteen members of a family suffered severe burns when a gas cylinder exploded inside their
house in the northern part of Kabul City.
Ahmad Farhad, the father of the family, told reporters, “The lives of thousands of people are in danger due to inattention of government and relevant government departments. Lack of control of poor quality gas cylinders and import of low quality fuels has led to such incidents.
"The quality of the imported fuels and gas cylinders, which are imported from the neighbouring countries, should be controlled.”
As the winter is fast approaching and the demand for gas cylinders and fuels is increasing, experts believe that the number of burn cases will rise.
This is of major concern as most people in Afghanistan do not have access to proper medical facilities; therefore, great numbers of people will continue to succumb to their burn wounds.
Afghanistan does not have a proper system to register burn cases in the country; therefore, it is believed that the number of actual cases is much higher than what is being reported.
There is a need for a survey to find out more details about the number of people, especially children and women, who fall victim to gas cylinder and pressure cooker blasts and contaminated fuels each year and the social and economic impact of such incidents and the post-incident lives of the victims.
There is also a profound need for testing the quality of available gas cylinders, pressure cookers and fuels and encouraging the government authorities to ban their import and ask people to stop buying them.
On several occasions, government authorities have promised to control the quality of imported products, but so far they have failed to keep their word.
This failure along with the lack of consumer awareness about health complications due to poor quality commodities is worrying.
Consumers Rights and Services Organization (CRSO), along with a number of public health experts, is calling on the government of Afghanistan to test certain commodities and issue approval certificates to the importers.
CRSO urges the government of Afghanistan to implement strict quality control measures to ensure the safety of its citizens.
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