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IKEA Lights Up Refugees Camps with “Green Energy”

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 5 2014 (IPS) - Rolling out renewable “green energy” solutions to refugee camps in five countries from the Middle East, Africa and Asia will improve the well being of more than one million lives, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said during a launch of a two-month campaign to raise funds through the sale of light bulbs at IKEA stores globally.

For every light bulb purchased during the campaign period (February 3 to March 29), IKEA Foundation will donate ¢ 1 ($1.37) to the UNHCR.  The funds raised from the “Brighter Lives for Refugees” campaign will support the delivery of better lighting, sustainable energy and primary education in UNHCR-run refugee camps throughout Jordan, Sudan, Bangladesh, Chad and Ethiopia, reaching out to almost 1.5 million refugees.

About 30 to 40 percent of the funding will be used for education and the rest of it will help provide solar-powered streetlights, indoor solar lanterns and other renewable energy technologies such as fuel-efficient cooking stoves in camps.  But challenges are facing both UNHCR and IKEA.

Over the past two years, Jordan has provided asylum for a large number of Syrians, Iraqis and other refugees.  The pressure of substantial strain on national systems and infrastructure has become acute.

Peter Kessler,  the Jordan-based Senior Spokesman for UNHCR, said many refugees are now pirating electrical hook-ups that can be unsafe.  How to install a system of proper low-energy lighting for such a huge refugee population, and to renovate the traditional energy consuming system are key in providing refugees with lighting for studies and other activities.  Nearly 10.5 million refugees globally are children and simple activities such as going to the toilet, collecting water or returning to the shelter can be difficult and dangerous, without accessible lighting.

To IKEA, the real test is how to help build up safe and smart energy systems in severe living situations, like refugee camps that are set up in deserts like Jordan or places like Sudan, Ethiopia and Chad.

Jonathan Spampinato, the head of Communications & Strategic Planning of IKEA Foundation said that IKEA has little experience working in the Middle East.  This time they might need more creativity and different designs to light up the homes in the region, which will be addressed by a partnership knowledge workshop organised by UNHCR and IKEA.

According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, the partnership has become “more vital and more urgent,” with over 2 million people living as refugees in 2013, a near 20-year record. Guterres said, “This campaign represents a new, unique chapter in our relationship with the IKEA Foundation, UNHCR’s largest private sector partner. Together, we hope to be able to transform the lives of many refugees.”

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