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Why This Matters

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.

Over 65 million people worldwide are forcibly displaced from their homes. 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 is expensive, inefficient and dangerous

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.

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 fuel emits disproportionately large amounts of CO2 and generates less energy than other types of fuel.

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.

Women Confront the Lack of Energy in Refugee Camps

The burden of this energy deficit falls heaviest on women and girls as Nadège Kabore, a social worker in Goudoubo camp, Burkina Faso, explains. 

Not enough attention

Energy supply for refugees and displaced people is rarely at the top of the agenda for humanitarian groups or host countries. Food, shelter and medical care often take precedence. While these areas are part of the solution in improving the way that energy is delivered, a lack of focus on energy means that potentially better and more integrated solutions are being missed.

Not enough funding, and not enough expertise

Annual budget cycles in the humanitarian world mean energy investments are often impossible to plan and fund. Host countries often don’t want to acknowledge that displaced people will probably be with them for some time, so they are reluctant to make long-term investments that might create resentment in their own populations. Knowledge is spread thinly across the sector, and there is no ‘cluster’ or institution mandated to meet energy needs in an emergency, as there is for water, food and shelter.

Energy challenges for refugees

Nashon Tado, Regional Information Officer for the NRC, on the energy challenges in refugee camps.