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Risks of obtaining fuel in displaced populations

Summary of published letter1

If it can be done in a cost effective way, firewood is supplied to refugee families in order to reduce the environmental damage caused by the presence of large number of refugees.

A recently published letter in the Lancet, written by the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, raises the issue of violence against women and adolescents faced with the responsibility of obtaining fuel in internally displaced populations. Since fuel provision is usually irregular in camp settings, there are often disturbing consequences as women/girls are forced to leave camps to gather wood. A number of disturbing examples are cited. For example, IDP women and adolescent girls are frequently raped in Angola especially when military troops are stationed near their camps. In the Dadaab refugee camps of eastern Kenya, there have also been reports of many rapes by bandits. Rape and sexual abuse of displaced women and adolescents by paramilitary groups have been reported as a strategy of intimidation in Colombia. In Burma (Myanmar), many internally displaced women and children are raped especially when working in the fields outside the camps.

The authors suggest that cooking fuel should be classed as essential for food preparation, warmth and light. They argue that provision of fuel would lower the incidence of such attacks by decreasing the number of necessary unprotected excursions. They also recommend that guidelines should state that irrespective of the circumstances and without discrimination, competent authorities should provide internally displaced females with a minimum of safe access to appropriate fuel.

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1La Mont-Gregory E and Matenge M (2002): The Lancet, vol 359, May 18, pp 1782

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Risks of obtaining fuel in displaced populations. Field Exchange 17, November 2002. p7. www.ennonline.net/fex/17/risks

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