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A Stranger in My Own Home: Fuel-efficient Stoves Protect Women and the Environment in the Congo

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Published on Jun 2, 2014

Refugees and internally displaced people face a series of obstacles as they try to cook food for their families. Although food distributed by humanitarian agencies must be cooked before it can be eaten, cooking fuel is rarely provided. Women and children, especially girls, are typically responsible for cooking family meals, and their health and safety are threatened every day as they search for cooking fuel, often traveling up to 10-20 kilometers into the bush to find firewood.

Through our Fuel and Firewood Initiative, the Women's Refugee Commission aims to reduce the vulnerability of displaced women and children to the many harmful consequences associated with cooking fuel collection and use—including gender-based violence (GBV), environmental degradation and respiratory illnesses caused by burning solid fuels like firewood indoors. Our goal is for displaced women, children and families to have safe access to appropriate cooking fuel.

We have been working successfully since 2005 to put cooking fuel on the humanitarian agenda. The challenges associated with the collection, supply and use of cooking fuel span several sectors of humanitarian response and rarely fit neatly into the existing mandates of the United Nations (UN) agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working on the ground. Humanitarian workers tend to work on just one sector, such as protection or food; however, the Women's Refugee Commission has found that a comprehensive approach to cooking fuel needs is necessary.

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