Why refugees deserve better

At the end of 2014, the number of displaced people reached an unprecedented 59.5 million, a near 40 million increase in the span of one decade, primarily due to conflict and war. As the number of displaced individuals steadily increases, there is a decline of provisions for basic human needs. Many of these provisions are being met inadequately and inefficiently through ad hoc alternative resources which are usually unreliable and have high potential for causing damage to health and the environment.

Energy access is one crucial provision which demonstrates this issue. Access to clean cooking, lighting, heating, and clean water is essential and one that has huge potential.

The problem

Access to energy is very limited within refugee camps and is an ambiguous topic as there is limited data. In-depth research of energy usage within refugee camps has only recently been accumulated, however it is not sufficient enough for implementation within policies.


Health Issues

  • Many refugee households primarily use detrimental forms of fuel such as firewood, LPG, charcoal, or kerosene as a form of energy.
  • An estimation of 20,000 forcibly displaced people die prematurely every year as a result of pollution from indoor fires.
  • Others suffer from varied health problems such as lung or eye diseases.


Environmental Damage

  • There is around 13 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (tCO2), which is emitted from displaced households a year.
  • Deforestation is also a major issue: 64,700 acres of forest (equivalent to 49,000 football pitches) are burned each year by displaced people living in camps, often due to a lack of alternative solutions.
  • Globally, solid biomass cooking is responsible for 18% of global GHG emissions.


Long-term Camps

  • Camps such as Dadaab or Kakuma in Kenya have been there for almost a quarter of a century now with populations of 356,014 and 153,959 displaced individuals.
  • The average length of time as a refugee is 17 years (UNHCR, 2004) and they continue to have temporary status.
  • Many current energy resources are only viable for short-term camps click now.
  • Long-term Camps’ usage of the current energy resources causes further damage to health and the environment.
  • This is a growing issue as the number of displaced individuals steadily increases.
  • Women and girls frequently experience intimidation and violence when collecting firewood→ As many as 500 displaced Darfuri women and girls were raped while collecting firewood and water within a five-month period in Sudan (Chatham House)



The solution

Many organizations have now given new approaches to energy usage, which are more sustainable and are not detrimental to health. UNHCR is recognizing the newer forms and methods of energy production and attempting to modify “in an effort to reconcile its energy practices with the UN’s commitment to carbon neutrality in its operations by 2020” (Chatham House).


ACE 1 Ultra-Clean Biomass Cookstove

Introducing efficient and reliable appliances such as the ACE 1 will give refugee camps varied benefits and long-term cost-savings.

  • The ACE1 helps deliver:
    • Food security
    • Reductions in CO2 emissions
    • Reduction of deforestation
    • Benefits to health
  • Basic electricity for LED lights, mobile phones, etc.
  • Gasification; burning a variety of fuels without smoke
  • Portability; enabling people to use it anywhere, including in transit.
  • Reduction household pollution, diseases, and the risk of house fires.


Health Solutions

  • Appliances such as the ACE1 are able to provide smokeless cooking, reducing the number of deaths and health problems.
  • Reduces lung cancer, acute lower respiratory infection, pneumonia, heart disease, and eye diseases.
  • The ACE1 effectively eliminates black carbon emissions, reducing harmful particulates to neglible levels (IWA tested).


Environmental Solutions

Displaced individuals rely on local forests to provide them wood to fuel their needs. The consistent use of firewood is supplying to the rapid loss of the woods. Deforestation continues to be a major issue in refugee camps as it is the easiest and most accessible fuel resource.

  • The ACE1 requires 70% less fuel to run in comparison to the traditional cooking methods.
  • Potential to reduce CO2 emissions by 2-4 tonnes per year.



Long-term Camps

  • Solutions such as the ACE1 gives camps such as Dadaab or Kakuma an appliance which is durable, reliable, and reduces costs.
  • We can improve access and supply innovative, sustainable appliances such as the ACE1 through awareness and demonstrations.
  • Giving displaced individuals the option and access can lead to more viable inventions, building more Eco-friendly and healthy societies.
  • Distribution of clean cook stoves and fuels will boost gender equality by helping to protect women and children from hardships, protect from sexual assault or abuse and help to empower women.



The distribution of the ACE1 can lead to better lives across many borders, especially within refugee camps. The increase in the number of refugees and displaced individuals are continuously rising and the issues indicated will only lead to further complications. Distribution and guidance of cleaner, more sustainable, and cost-effective solutions are in dire need. Alternative sources such as the ACE 1 clean cookstove are able to solve numerous critical issues concerning health, the environment, gender equality, and long-term refugee camps.


Christina van Norden, Marketing and Communications at African Clean Energy.