Ashden calls for refugee-led energy solutions on World Refugee Day

On World Refugee Day, celebrated on June 20, the climate charity Ashden highlighted the critical need for enhanced support for refugee-led organizations that are tackling energy poverty in refugee camps. According to Ashden, 94% of people residing in refugee camps lack access to reliable and affordable electricity, with many forced to rely on hazardous, polluting cookstoves and open fires.

Patapia helps refugee women start and grow businesses powered by clean energy, such as snack kiosks and hair salons

Donald Mavunduse, Ashden’s Director of International Programmes, emphasized the effectiveness of solutions developed by refugees themselves.

"Refugee-led organisations deliver uniquely effective solutions to the energy poverty challenge. They have relevant lived experiences, understand the barriers, and know what works," Mavunduse stated.

He cited examples like locally-made cookstoves that significantly reduce air pollution and deforestation, noting that these initiatives also bolster local economies.

However, Mavunduse pointed out the difficulties these organizations face in securing funding and inclusion in broader humanitarian efforts. He shared insights from his experiences in Rwamwanja camp, Uganda, where even the most successful local solutions struggle to gain financial support and recognition within the global humanitarian system.

Ashden’s call to action includes increasing funding and support for refugee-led organizations, which not only address immediate energy needs but also contribute to job creation and skills development. The charity also advocates for giving these organizations a stronger voice in local decisions about energy access and greater participation at global climate summits and forums.

Highlighting a specific example of impactful refugee-led initiatives, Ashden pointed to Patapia, an organization operating in Rwamwanja camp. Patapia helps refugee women start and grow businesses powered by clean energy, such as snack kiosks and hair salons. Despite the challenges of acquiring necessary equipment like solar panels and fridges due to financial institutions' reluctance to lend to refugees, Patapia provides affordable loans for clean power products and crucial business training.

Patapia was co-founded by Geoffrey Omoding and Rebecca Aime, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Aime shared, "When I'm supporting my fellow refugees, I share my story. Then they feel free to share their stories. We get to heal and they understand: OK, if my fellow refugees can do this, why not me?" This personal approach has helped forge strong bonds within the refugee community, encouraging collective progress and healing.

Patapia is currently a finalist in the Ashden Award for Powering Refugees and Displaced People. The winners of the 2024 Ashden Awards will be announced at a ceremony in London on June 27, during London Climate Action Week. These awards aim to celebrate and boost inclusive climate innovation by providing winners with grants, publicity, and connections to funders and investors.

For more information, visit Ashden’s website

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