Clean energy improving camps for displaced people

Camps for refugees and internally displaced people are known for being dangerous, particularly for women. Thanks to a solar-energy initiative from the UN’s migration agency, this is beginning to change.

Energy is hard to come by in camps for internally displaced people (IDP), making access to energy a safety issue for women and girls, who often have to walk in the dark to use latrines and other water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

This is why the International Organization for Migration launched a solar-energy initiative in early April, distributing 1,405 solar-powered lamps to people living in a camp for internationally displaced people (IDP) in northeastern Nigeria. The lamp is charged by affixing it to the roofs of the makeshift shelters that residents live in.

One of the people to receive a lamp is Huawa, who fled her home village of Adamari with her husband and four children in March, according to a UN news release. She told UN staff that she now feels safe when using the latrines at night. “The lamp helps me see the path when it’s dark, but I still need to be careful not to step on a lizard!” she jokes.

As Nigeria-based IOM programme manager Djamila Fatime Harine explains, the solar lamps offer more than just improved safety: “With solar lights, children can continue to learn without the health and safety risks of smoky firewood or kerosene lamps, which also pose health hazards such as burns and respiratory problems.”

According to the UN, its agencies and other humanitarian organizations are teaming up elsewhere to power refugee camps with renewable energy. For example, a solar plant has been providing clean, reliable electricity to over 100,000 Syrian refugees since 2017 at two UNHCR refugee camps in Jordan. Although the project cost $17.5 million to build, it now saves the UN refugee agency some $12.5 million per year in energy costs and reduces carbon emissions by around 20,000 tonnes per year.

And in South Sudan, a UN-protected base now uses a solar-powered pump to provide some 29,000 displaced people and 300 humanitarian workers without around 20 litres of water every day.

A group of UN-related bodies have made the switch to clean energy a priority to achieve Goal 7 of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: safe access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy services for all displaced people.

Image credit: UN Migration Agency (IOM) via Flickr

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