If you had the opportunity to do something for Internally Displaced Persons or refugees, would you? And if you were to make a list of the kinds of help you would give; I suppose food would most likely take a top position and…..why not, really?
Now here is the thing.
As an example, take Nigeria and her humanitarian crisis needs of about 3 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Note that food is offered to them, yes. And, basically in two different forms –cooked form and raw form. So that, when it is given in its raw form; it needs to be cooked before it can be consumed –mostly, in pots over the traditional three stone open fire with firewood.
There are implications.
It is no news that in this part of the world, women perform key functions in meeting household energy needs. In short, household cooking is the woman’s full responsibility. A responsibility she may choose to or not to share with the children. Hence, women and children are the most vulnerable groups.
Often, under dangerous and insecure conditions, they walk from their places of shelter to collect firewood in bushes where they a further exposed to threats of sexual violence. The cooking process does not happen in isolation either, as women spend more time near the fire. As a result, they are more affected by the pollutants released during biomass combustion. In Nigeria alone, about 95,300 persons die from cook smoke per year according to World Health Organisation.
But of course, there is also the bigger picture –cutting down trees for firewood contributes to environmental degradation and climate change.
That being said. Lighting is another issue.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, on the United Nations Foundation’s website talked about his personal experience: “When I was a boy in post-war Korea, I studied at night by a dim and smoky oil lamp….. This memory has stayed with me”
Similarly, many young IDPs, even when they get access to education, can become disadvantaged due to lack of safe lighting at night to enable them read or do their homework.
In less than two weeks, and for the first time ever: a World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) will take place in Turkey. Here, governments, UN agencies and civil society organisations, private sector and other stakeholders, will convene to articulate a vision and make plans for the future for handling humanitarian issues.
Already key components such as protection, health care, shelter, water, food, sanitation and education have taken front seats at the discussion table. But, one important component, Energy, is relegated –which is strange, given that access to safe energy and fuel is equally fundamental.
For this team of young people, this is clearly an oversight. **Youth for Safe Energy Initiative (YSEI), is a collective voice of sustainable energy entrepreneurs, passionate environmental advocates, and activists demanding for, among other things the inclusion of access to safe energy and fuel as one of the central components in the Humanitarian Summit plan of action.
So, where does this all tie up for you?
This group has put up a petition “Give IDPs Access to Safe Energy and Fuel at the Humanitarian Summit" as part of its many activities. YSEI is therefore, urging everyone to sign the petition and help echo their voices for a stronger momentum bringing forward a key issue, -one that affects millions (still counting) of people around the world.
*photo credit: Gladys Durojaiye
**for more information from YSEI, email: firstname.lastname@example.org