Most of the food provided by humanitarian agencies to displaced people must be cooked before it can be eaten, but cookstoves and fuel are rarely provided. As a result, women and children must risk their safety, health—and sometimes their lives—to search for and collect firewood so they can cook food over smoky, polluting open fires. In many cases, displaced women walk for hours to find firewood and must carry heavy loads back to their camp, which puts them at risk for physical and sexual attacks, dehydration, and physical injuries. At night, lack of access to lighting further increases women’s vulnerability when they are navigating camps to use latrines and other services.
Displaced women and children also are exposed to health risks, including respiratory infections from smoke produced by inefficient stoves and fuels such as firewood. Children who collect firewood, or accompany their mothers in the collection, cannot attend school. Many displaced people sell or exchange a portion of their food rations to procure the firewood needed to cook the remaining food. Such coping mechanisms can have serious consequences, including malnutrition.
In situations where firewood is the main source of fuel, such as in Sub-Saharan Africa, the competition for dwindling natural resources is a trigger for tension between displaced people and host communities. The collection of firewood by refugees can cause deforestation and environmental degradation, which can be long-lasting and difficult to reverse. It also can lead to a ban on firewood collection, which prevents refugees from cooking their food and leads to devastating consequences for their nutrition.
Clean Cooking Solutions
Ensuring access to cleaner, more modern cookstoves and fuels for vulnerable populations has been a component of CCA’s strategy since its launch. Refugees, internally displaced people, and other crisis-affected populations often cannot afford to purchase cleaner, more modern cookstoves and fuel, yet they suffer disproportionately from the consequences of lack of access to cooking technologies and fuel.
CCA’s expert Humanitarian Working Group recommended that CCA’s strategy build on the work of the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) Steering Committee (formerly the IASC SAFE Task Force), a consortium of humanitarian organizations whose mission is to facilitate a more coordinated, predictable, timely, and effective response to the fuel and energy needs of crisis-affected populations.
Today, CCA co-chairs the SAFE Steering Committee and coordinates the group’s global activities. The SAFE Steering Committee members—including UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF, FAO, and WRC—work together to ensure that crisis-affected populations are able to satisfy their fuel and energy needs for cooking, heating, lighting, and powering in a safe and sustainable manner, without fear or risk to their health, well-being, and personal security.
CCA’s internal humanitarian strategy contributes directly to the vision, mission, and global strategy outlined by the SAFE Steering Committee. CCA’s humanitarian engagement falls into six strategic pillars and will take place globally, as well as in SAFE focus countries. The six pillars are:
- Pillar 1: Coordinate the SAFE sector and share information.
- Pillar 2: Commission research and build evidence.
- Pillar 3: Provide technical support, tools, and guidance for implementation.
- Pillar 4: Build human resource capacity.
- Pillar 5: Advocate for the clean cooking sector.
- Pillar 6: Mobilize resources.
Safe and reliable access to energy for cooking, lighting, and powering is a basic need. Programs that improve access to these needs save lives and protect livelihoods in emergencies and crisis settings, by integrating energy needs into emergency preparedness and response. This improves access to household fuel and lighting using appropriate technologies and renewable energy, increases access to energy for schools, health centers, and other institutions, and establishes and manages sustainable forestry resources for fuel provision and environmental protection.