Sustainable energy use in refugee camps

Since 2016 UDP has been working in partnership with UNHCR to better understand the issues and options surrounding the use of traditional energy in refugee communities in East Africa


Across the world, the UNHCR and host countries are struggling to accommodate growing numbers of refugees. Refugees, especially in poorer hosting countries, primarily use traditional woodfuel resources for cooking and heating. This often leads to unsustainable deforestation and a range of risks to human life and health, including indoor air pollution, conflict with local communities and violent crimes committed against the refugee women and children who walk to harvest woodfuel. In the context of refugee settlements, energy requirements are related primarily to the provision of basic services for cooking, heating and lighting. However, it is often overlooked or neglected within the humanitarian agenda because of a lack of expertise and funding, or a reluctance from host governments to authorize long-term infrastructure in ‘temporary’ camps.

In 2017 we conducted research in the Nyarugusu refugee camp in western Tanzania, to strengthen the case for diverting existing resources towards the financing of simple, known, tried-and-tested technical solutions to this problem, e.g. the roll-out of cleaner energy technologies at the household level.

Similar research was carried out in Uganda in early 2018. This work also aims to raise awareness of the dollar-value of these environmental and social ‘externalities’, to secure additional funding and/or create markets for the widespread roll-out of cleaner and safer energy technologies in other refugee camps.

More broadly, UNEP DTU is a Committee Member of the Global Plan of Action (GPA) on energy for displaced people, launched in New York in July 2018, as part of the High Level Policy Forum that reviewed progress towards SDG#7.

Among other issues the GPA highlights the lack of empirical evidence as a major factor limiting the development and implementation of sustainable energy solutions in the context of humanitarian assistance.

Share this

Focus area: Climate Planning and Policy, Supporting sustainable energy & transport access & transition

Country / Region: Tanzania

Get in touch

James Haselip (on leave)

Senior Researcher

Phone: 93511614
LinkedIn: Visit profile