Friday, October 23, 2020
Home Lead Story Private Sector Companies Join Hands to Support Refugees' Access to Clean Energy

Private Sector Companies Join Hands to Support Refugees’ Access to Clean Energy

Private Sector Joins Clean Energy Drive for Africa's Refugees

By Lisa Bryant

In northern Ethiopia, tens of thousands of mostly Eritrean refugees are getting connected to families back home, partly thanks to last year’s peace deal between Addis Ababa and Asmara, but also to clean energy.

A Spanish alliance that includes three power companies is linking refugee camps in Shire, near the border with Eritrea, to the country’s energy grid, which largely relies on hydropower. The next step is equipping refugee households with solar energy.

“It’s a catalyst,” said Javier Mazorra, partnership coordinator for the group, Alianza Shire. “You need energy for health, for education, for protection, especially for women.”

Humanitarians hope what is happening in Shire will someday become the new normal, amounting to a game changer for refugees, 90% of whom have limited access to electricity, according to the United Nations. Indeed, energy access counted among key issues addressed this week at a global refugee forum in Geneva, with Africa considered a top priority.

“The current situation in Africa is pretty poor, pathetic,” said Andrew Harper, climate action special adviser for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which co-hosted the meeting.

Often refugees have a single solution, “which is going to surrounding forests, woodland, and cutting it down,” Harper said.

Greening Africa’s energy 

refugees energy
Climate action special adviser Andrew Harper of UNHCR, which has launched a sustainable energy strategy for its refugee camps. VOA

The refugee agency has launched a four-year strategy to transition to clean energy in all of its camps, although Harper offered no fixed deadline or price tag for doing so. A UNHCR-sponsored report out this week also found renewable energy to be a cost-effective and reliable energy source for refugees.

For Africa in particular, the stakes are high — inside and outside refugee settings. Along with Asia, it has among the world’s highest rates of reliance on charcoal and firewood. Adding in charcoal exports, that has translated into massive deforestation in parts of the continent.

Firewood- and charcoal-based energy also carry myriad other problems, posing health risks from smoky fires and security threats for women collecting charcoal, and heightening tensions between refugees and host communities who also rely on the fast-thinning trees.

Kathleen Callaghy clean energy
Kathleen Callaghy of NGO Clean Cooking Alliance believes the private sector should partner with humanitarian efforts in bringing clean energy to refugees. VOA

Many of these problems can be seen in East Africa, home to some of the continent’s largest refugee communities.

“There are some energy solutions,” said Kathleen Callaghy, senior humanitarian program associate for Clean Cooking Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. “But the funding, the political will and the capacity of organizations in the humanitarian community is not enough to sustain or expand these projects over time.”

In drought-prone Ethiopia, the government launched a massive reforestation initiative that saw more than 350 million trees planted countrywide in a single day.

“This challenge is one of the prominent challenges we have,” he said, adding host communities are facing the fallout.

Convincing private sector

Energy drive
Fisseha Meseret Kindie, of Ethopia’s refugee agency, says the country needs support to develop clean energy for the refugees it hosts. VOA

Transitioning to green energy in Africa will mean tapping a private sector that may be wary of investing in refugees and a continent deemed risky.

“Quite honestly, there’s very little in it for them right now,” Callagh, of the Clean Cooking Alliance, said, suggesting alliances with humanitarian agencies as the way forward.

But for Mazorra, of Alianza Shire, the payback is more than financial.

“There are a lot of incentives,” he said, including learning to operate in risky settings. “When you are struggling with really poor resource situations, innovation is key. And there are some innovations that could go back to Spain.”

Harper, of UNHCR, believes there’s another, broader case to be made.

Also Read- Smoking Declines among Men for the First Time: WHO

“We’re basically saying the market for this in Africa is not just 6, 7 million refugees,” he said. “It’s 1.2 billion people. We’ve got to look at it as much more part of the rural electrification process across the continent.” (VOA)

STAY CONNECTED

19,120FansLike
362FollowersFollow
1,778FollowersFollow

Most Popular

Sushmita Sen: Time Off Gave The Breathing Space To Introspect

Sushmita Sen is back in the spotlight and on the screen, but there was a time when she distanced herself from it all. The...

Swiggy Onboards Over 7000 New Restaurants In A Month

Online food delivery platform Swiggy on Thursday revealed it has onboarded more than 7,000 new restaurants a month on Swiggy which is 3,000 more...

OTT Platforms Ready For Explosive Growth Led By Jio 5G Network

In a socially distanced world, over-the-top (OTT) video and data consumption are witnessing a steep surge in India and led by Jio Platforms that...

Facebook Starts Charging Companies For Using WhatsApp For Business

Facebook on Thursday said it will finally start charging companies using WhatsApp for Business, as it expanded ways for its users to check out...

Uttar Pradesh Helpline Number To Answer In Regional Language

The emergency helpline number 112 in Uttar Pradesh will now respond to callers in Bhojpuri, Braj, Awadhi, and Bundeli dialects. This has been done on...

Down Syndrome May Increase COVID Death Risk

Researchers have found that down syndrome is associated with a 10-fold increased risk for COVID-19-related death. Down syndrome (sometimes called Down's syndrome) is a condition...

Miss India 2020 Pageant Held Virtually Due to Pandemic

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Miss India 2020 pageant will be held virtually the Miss India Organisation has announced. A nationwide audition to...

6 Designers Came Together to Help Craft Clusters Impacted by Pandemic

Six fashion designers came together to support marginalized craft clusters and those heavily impacted by the pandemic by generating livelihood opportunities for the artisans....

Recent Comments