Findings

House fires, kids՚ burns and hospitalization of individuals with severe burns are common, especially during the dry season when the country is dry and there are strong winds. UNHCR camp official in South Sudan

Energy poverty affects millions of displaced people

Without power it is difficult to heat your home, study and work after dark, receive medical services, communicate with dispersed relatives, or engage in any kind of economic activity.

Almost 60 million people worldwide are displaced from their homes by conflict. We estimate that about 80 per cent of those in camps have absolutely minimal access to energy for cooking and heating, and about 90 per cent have no access to electricity.

90% of people in camps have
no access to electricity.

Energy poverty creates environmental damage

An influx of more people can lead to significant resource pressures. This is particularly the case in areas where refugees predominantly consume firewood for fuel.

As forests are cleared, people need to travel further to find fuel, increasing the risks for those involved in its collection, and the costs for those who have to purchase it.

A Sudanese refugee woman carries branches for firewood at the Farchana refugee camp that has more than 20,000 refugees from Darfur and eastern Chad. (Photo by Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images)

Energy poverty is expensive

In the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, we estimate that households spend 24 per cent of their income on energy, compared to a UK household spend of just 4 percent.

Energy poverty is inefficient

Wood and charcoal are inefficient fuels, but they are by far the most common sources of energy used by refugees and displaced people around the world. Burning this kind of biomass fuel emits disproportionately large amounts of CO2 and generates less energy than other types of fuel.

Fuel use for cooking by type for displaced households of concern to UNHCR, 2014 (tonnes of oil equivalent).

Spending on cooking fuel is comparatively low in camp and rural settings – coming to an estimated global total of $335 million per year compared to $1.03 billion in urban settings. However, cooking inefficiencies mean that the volume of energy used per person is larger than the volume used by displaced people in urban areas. Our model estimates that in camp settings, annual consumption per person is 0.13 tonnes of oil equivalent (toe), whereas in urban settings annual consumption per displaced person is 0.06 toe. By contrast, urban dwellers are estimated to spend far more on fuel (primarily in the form of costlier LPG) in absolute terms, but use proportionately less of it because it is more efficient.

Without data collection on the entire system’s energy use, donors will not be able to make cost-benefit assessments of different energy options. Heat, Light and Power for Refugees
Chatham House Report for the Moving Energy Initiative

Energy poverty is dangerous

We estimate that 20,000 displaced people die prematurely each year from respiratory illnesses as a result of household air pollution caused by burning wood, charcoal, kerosene and other fuels indoors. Shelters catch fire and children are sometimes accidentally poisoned by drinking kerosene.

Open fires, kerosene lamps and candles all frequently cause accidents
An estimated 20,000 forcibly displaced people die prematurely every year as a result of pollution from indoor fires (based on WHO global estimates)

And women and girls are worst affected

The burden of this energy deficit falls heaviest on women and girls. Women and girls are more frequently exposed to the damaging effects of smoke and fumes from cooking, and are responsible for collecting most of the firewood used by households.

Women and girls frequently experience intimidation and violence when collecting firewood
Some 500 displaced Darfuri women and girls were raped while collecting firewood and water within a five-month period in Sudan (Médecins Sans Frontières, 2005)