Solar powered solutions for refugees are increasingly popular, especially in camps that have little infrastructure. Energy access is a huge issue; it is essential for safety and survival. Solar powered solutions for refugees are one avenue to increasing that access.
The following five projects improve conditions, increase access to basic necessities and provide sustainable energy for refugees:
- Solar-powered streetlights
Temporary infrastructure and reliance on generators limit light at night in many refugee camps. Streetlights can make camps safer, more welcoming places. Solar-powered streetlights, in particular, can operate off the grid and are more sustainable. Light after dark also promotes a safer, more communal environment.
Oxfam, an international confederation of organizations combating poverty, provided solar-powered streetlights to Zaatan, the largest refugee camp in Jordan. Strategically placed in front of every sanitation facility, the streetlights are able to light up the whole street. This solar-powered solution improved conditions for women and children to safely visit sanitation facilities after dark.
- Solar-powered water pumps
Many refugee camps lack good quality and adequate quantities of water. The diesel generators that often power water pumps cause loud noise, pollution and maintenance headaches. Solar-powered water pumps are a quieter, more economical solution.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) installed a solar-powered water system in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, part of the largest refugee complex in the world. Along with providing increased drinking and cooking water, additional water is now available for washing clothes and practicing good hygiene such as hand washing.
- Solar-powered cookers
In Burkina Faso, sunshine is plentiful while firewood takes hours to gather and a limited supply may cause conflict among refugees. Once firewood is acquired and burned, it produces smoke and compromises air quality.
The Blazing Tube, a space-age looking cook stove, offers a solar-powered alternative. The solar-powered cooker generates heat from a long, curved solar reflector and less than five liters of vegetable oil.
A program by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its partner organizations introduced 601 Blazing Tubes to families of Malian refugees in Burkina Faso. The well-received solar cooker does not produce any smoke, improves air quality and reduces the time spent searching for firewood.
- Solar Lanterns
Solar lanterns go a long way in refugee camps. Off the grid, many families rely on other light sources, often powered with fuels, such as kerosene, that emit unsafe fumes and can be hazardous. Solar lanterns reduce refugees’ exposure to such fumes providing a safe, independent light source.
The social venture WakaWaka provides solar lanterns with a Buy One, Give One model. The company’s “Solar for Syria” campaign has distributed over 26,000 solar lights and chargers to Syrian refugees.
- Solar chargers
In addition to light, many refugees lack the ability to charge communication devices. The WakaWaka lantern also doubles as a charger, the 8-hour source providing enough power to charge a mobile phone. For Syrian refugees, mobile devices are essential tools as they seek asylum.
Solar chargers also aid internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. In 2014, a United Nations project, funded by the Saudi Humanitarian Fund for Iraq, began distributing kits with solar-powered solutions to internally displaced families. Each solar kit includes two detachable lanterns and a mobile phone charger.
Solar powered solutions for refugees take advantage of underutilized resources with dynamic results. In refugee camps, these five solar-powered projects are making a world of difference for people in difficult circumstances. Solar-power is changing the refugee experience and the planet benefits along with the people.