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Webinar | Mar-17 | Cooking and Energy Access in Displacement Settings
The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is a public-private partnership to save lives,
improve livelihoods, empower women, and protect the environment by creating a
thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions.
• The Alliance’s “100 by ‘20” goal calls for 100 million households to gain access to
clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels by 2020.
• We are working with a strong network of over 1600 public, private and non-profit
partners to accelerate the production, deployment, and use of clean and efficient
cookstoves and fuels in developing countries.
Ensuring energy access for vulnerable populations has been a component of the
Alliance strategy since its launch, whether they be refugees, internally displaced
people, or those displaced by natural disaster.
We are currently seeing the highest level of displacement on record.
• Last year, UNHCR reported that 65.3 million people were forcibly displaced from
their homes as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human
rights violations. 12.4 million of these were just in 2014.
• The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (Norwegian Refugee Commission)
estimates that an additional 19.2 million were displaced by natural disasters,
including earthquakes, floods, and drought.
Most of this population rely on traditional fuels — firewood, charcoal, animal dung, and
agricultural waste — for their energy needs, including cooking, heating, lighting, and
The impacts of relying on biomass for energy needs are serious and build on eachother.
• The majority of foods provided by humanitarian agencies (i.e. dry goods like rice,
beans, etc.) has to be cooked to be eaten, but cookstoves and fuel are often not
provided as part of standard aid. Scarcity of fuel may force households to switch to
lower quality food, eat fewer meals, undercook food, or trade food rations for fuel.
This impacts nutrition, and affects food security.
• Smoke pollution from indoor fires causes over 4 million deaths globally every year;
MEI estimates that 20,000 of these are forcibly displaced people. Fires are also
unsafe – they can cause burns and spread quickly throughout a camp if left
• The cost of fuel often absorbs large proportions of crisis-affected families’ meagre
income, and the time women and children spend collecting firewood negatively
affects their ability to work or attend school. On average, refugee women in sub-
Saharan Africa spend 5 hours per trip, 2-3 times a week to collect firewood. This
limits their ability to go to school or earn income.
• Firewood and charcoal sales are often the only source of income for refugees and
IDPs, but these livelihoods are unsustainable, and in the long term are detrimental to
opportunities for both displaced and host communities.
• An estimated 64,700 acres of forest are burned for fuel each year by forcibly
displaced families living in camps (Source: Moving Energy Initiative 2015).
• Harvesting of firewood for cooking fuel contributes to deforestation, soil erosion, and
loss of agricultural and grazing environments. All of these increases the risk of natural
disasters (cyclical – more displaced people)
• Displaced women walk for hours to find firewood and carry very heavy loads back to
camp leading to risks of dehydration, physical injury, and attack.
• When they leave the relatively safety of the camp, they face an increased
vulnerability to the risk of gender-based violence, such as rape. A 2014 UNHCR
survey found over 42% of refugee households in Chad and 41% of households in
Uganda had at least one member that experienced physical, verbal or sexual assault
during firewood collection over a 6-month time period.
• Firewood collection (often illegal) exacerbates tensions between the displaced and
And these are just a few examples.
Pictured above: Humanitarian cluster system, as defined by the United Nations Office
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Fuel and energy do not currently have a formal place within the UN humanitarian
response system, either as a cluster or reference group, yet energy impacts nearly
every cluster area in some way.
As Co-Chair of the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) Humanitarian Working Group,
the Alliance advocates for safe access to fuel and energy (SAFE) to be incorporated into
humanitarian budgets, strategies, and coordination mechanisms.
In 2007 WRC, WFP, UNCHR, advocated for the issue of cooking fuel to be a part of the
IASC agenda, and the IASC Task Force on SAFE was formed. Its purpose was “to reduce
exposure to violence, contribute to the protection of & ease the burden on those
populations collecting wood in humanitarian settings worldwide, through solutions
which will promote safe access to appropriate energy & reduce environmental impacts
while ensuring accountability.”
The mandate of the IASC Task Force on SAFE ended in 2009. The group carried on as an
independent body by its members and became the SAFE Humanitarian Working Group.
Its mandate expanded from cooking and fuel to include energy access for heating,
lighting, and powering as well. Hence, SAFE was redefined as “Safe Access to Fuel and
Today, the SAFE Humanitarian Working Group has over 25 organizational members,
including a Steering Committee lead by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, the
World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNHCR, International
Lifeline Fund, Mercy Corps, and others.
As part of its Co-Chair role in the SAFE Working Group, the Alliance facilitated the delivery of
over 86,000 energy products to Nepal earthquake victims in 2015 by connecting stove and
lighting manufacturers with humanitarian agencies and the Government of Nepal through
weekly calls, reducing duplication and leveraging expertise. Products included cookstoves, solar
lamps, chargers, and powering systems.
The Alliance also worked with FAO and WFP to add a few simple questions on energy access
into their rapid needs assessments. Through this and through assessments done by the local
government, we determined that more than 75,000 households had cooking technology
damaged or destroyed. Many lost power and lighting technology.
Eventually, this coordination role was fully transitioned to the Nepali government – the
Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC) has taken over the coordination of energy during
the recovery phase.
• The Alliance developed and currently maintains the SAFE Humanitarian Working
Group website, which serves as the central coordination resource for humanitarian
energy. It includes a searchable database of more than 130 humanitarian energy
projects and 200 resources and tools for practitioners.
The Alliance conducts research to build the evidence base around cooking
interventions in humanitarian settings, testing key questions and concepts and
identifying best practices. Some examples:
• In 2016, the Alliance completed a comprehensive study assessing level of access to,
and use of, improved energy technologies and fuels among refugees living in five
Rwandan camps. (Publish date TBD) Preliminary results show that fuel efficient
cookstoves did result in tangible benefits for the population.
• Gender-Based Violence in Humanitarian Settings: Cookstoves & Fuels (published
2016) examines the existing evidence on the relationship between gender-based
violence (GBV) and access to fuel and energy.
• Alliance partner Inyenyeri is conducting a pilot project in Kigeme camp, Rwanda, to
determine whether their market-based approach to fuel and stove distribution is
feasible in a refugee setting. The Alliance is monitoring and evaluating the project.
The Alliance provided written and technical support for the development of UNHCR
national SAFE strategies in 2014-2015, setting the stage for high quality programming
The Alliance maintains the Clean Cooking Catalog - a global database of cookstoves,
fuels, fuel products, and performance data. It includes information on features and
specifications, as well as emissions, efficiency and safety based on laboratory and field-
Working with Berkeley Air Monitoring Group and UNHCR, the Alliance developed
standardized technical specifications for the UNHCR bulk cookstoves procurement –
enabling a quicker procurement process and ensuring that the products distributed to
crisis-affected people meet minimum standards for fuel efficiency and safety.
The Alliance has trained over 230 humanitarian, energy, government, and private sector
staff from 25 countries on how to incorporate energy access and related issues into
their programming through annual SAFE trainings, facilitating cross-sector collaboration
and the implementation of best practices.
The Alliance has secured high-level energy commitments from leading global
humanitarian aid agencies such as UNHCR, the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the
Food and Agriculture Organization, Mercy Corps, and several national governments. For
example, UNHCR has committed to provide improved cookstoves and solar lanterns to
800,000 refugee households by 2018, while the World Food Programme has committed
to reach 10 million crisis-affected households with improved cookstoves by 2020.
The Alliance also led the SAFE Working Group’s #EnergyMatters campaign around the
World Humanitarian Summit to raise awareness and build support for the inclusion of
energy access as a priority in humanitarian response.
The Alliance works with its partners on the SAFE Humanitarian Working Group to
enhance donor funding of energy access programs in humanitarian settings.