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UNHCR – Bottled gas scheme eases fuel crisis for Rohingya refugees

Rohingya Refugees Mostafa Kamal and his wife Monowara are now cooking with bottled gas in their shelter in Kutupalong Refugee…

Rohingya Refugees Mostafa Kamal and his wife Monowara are now cooking with bottled gas in their shelter in Kutupalong Refugee Camp. © UNHCR / Roger Arnold

KUTUPALONG REFUGEE SETTLEMENT, Bangladesh – Up to now, the dwindling forests around Kutupalong have provided the only source of fuel to cook with Rohingya refugees like Monowara and her family.

“We had to collect firewood. It took us the whole day, “the mother of five says of the trek or several kilometers. “It is dangerous. I was scared every time, every day. “

The daily hunt for fuel is now less of a necessity under a new project launched by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to supply liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) two more than 200,000 refugee households and some Bangladeshi host families.

The scale of the demand for firewood in the vast settlement around Kutupalong, home to more than 620,000 people, is hard to grasp: 730 tons a day, an area equivalent to at least four football fields.

Besides being concerned about his daughters when they go to collect fuel, Monowara’s husband, Mostafa Kamal highlights Another concern is common to families living in one-room bamboo and plastic shacks.

“The smoke was everywhere in the shelter. Everything was dirty. Maar, worst of all, the children were coughing all the time and the eyes burned. It was unbearable. “

More than 730,000 Rohingya has fled Myanmar since August 201

7 joining tens of thousands of others already in Bangladesh.

” It’s really dangerous out there, especially for the children. “

More than 620,000 live in Kutupalong, the largest refugee camp in the world. The area is merging with other spontaneous settlements around Cox’s Bazar, making a combined population of 900,000, more than San Francisco, Marseille or Amsterdam.

It is a giant city of bamboo and tarpaulin with small paths between. Appallingly muddy when it’s raining, dusty when it’s dry. In the evening, the air everywhere is full of smoke.

Many refugees tell the same story. Azizur Rahman says: “It took the whole day to collect firewood. Og vi måtte betale folk der eller de slog oss. “

Did he mean villagers or other refugees? “I do not know, but it’s really dangerous out there, especially for the children.”

Worse was the smoke in the windowless shelters: “My children were constantly ill.”

  • Rohingya refugee Monowara is pleased that she has no longer to collect firewood. “It’s dangerous. I was scared every time, every day.”
    © UNHCR / Roger Arnold

  • Mostafa Kamal and his wife Monowara collect a bottled gas refill. They have been using a gas stove for the past six months.
    © UNHCR / Roger Arnold

  • Monowara uses her gas stove to cook for her family. UNHCR has launched a program to
    distributing energy-efficient LPG liquefied petroleum gas and cooking stoves to more than 200,000 Rohingya refugee households.

    © UNHCR / Roger Arnold

  • Azizur Rahman collects LPG refills at a UNHCR distribution center in Kutupalong Refugee Settlement. “My children were constantly ill.”

    © UNHCR / Roger Arnold

Dr. Tayabur Rahman Chowdhury, who runs the hospital in Kutupalong, says the smoke is a cause for concern.

“From all the medical problems we have here in the camp, the smoke-related issues are the most.”

Mickaël Edon , UNHCR energy officer overseeing the project, surveyed the energy needs of the settlement with his team and they concluded that bottled gas was a safe and practical alternative to firewood. A pilot scheme involving 6,000 families was successful.

“Liquefied petroleum gas is the cheapest solution and easy to use,” says Edon. “And it’s clean.”

UNHCR has provided gas and stoves to 6,000 households.

“No dangerous full-day trips to the woods anymore.”

Announcing the scheme at a news briefing in Geneva, UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said: “The switch will also help the protection of refugees because most of those collecting the firewood are women and children who can be at risk taking long and dangerous daily treks.”

He said that, as part of the scheme , ‘Refugees were receiving training on how to use the LPG cylinders and stoves, adding: “In addition to assisting refugees, every sixth stove and gas cylinder will be delivered to the vulnerable Bangladeshi families in local communities hosting Rohingya refugees.”

A relieved Monowara said with a smile: “My children are healthy. I am so grateful. “

Azizur agrees:” No coughing anymore, no inflamed eyes anymore – and no dangerous full-day trips to the woods any more, “

This means his children can turn their attention to school instead of making a risky trip to the forest.

What about safety the safety of the cyclinders? Edon’s reply is unequivocal: “These cylinders are absolutely safe and fulfill the very high safety standards of UNHCR.”

After a recent four engulfed LPG containers, they were the only things that survived undamaged, he said.

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