Posted by: lisacollste | October 1, 2009

Beyond Firewood

Creative Commons - A. Davey on Flickr

Creative Commons - A. Davey on Flickr

Every day millions of refugee and internally displaced women and girls around the world risk being raped, beaten and even killed, as they search for the firewood needed to cook food for their families. Reports show that this happens all over the world, from Sudan to Sri Lanka, Ethiopia to Ecuador, and it must not continue.

It is time to go beyond firewood.

Firewood collection, which often includes cutting down trees on agriculturally marginal land, is also a major factor in causing irreversible environmental degradation. Burning wood indoors releases toxic smoke that causes respiratory infections, which threaten the health of children and kill more people every year than malaria. The need for firewood is also frequently a rationale for keeping girls out of school and thus contributing to low enrollment and high retention rates among refugee and IDP girls.

The above mentioned shows that the collection, supply and use of firewood is a multi-sectoral problem, which needs a multi-sectoral response. As the primary mechanism for the coordination of humanitarian assistance, the Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) in 2007 set up a Task Force on Safe Access to Firewood and alternative Energy in Humanitarian Settings (IASC Task Force SAFE).

UNHCR has been co-sharing this Taskforce, which, over the last 18 months, has formulated three main outputs which provide practical guidance on developing effective, holistic coordination and response mechanisms for the range of concerns associated with the collection, supply and use of household energy in humanitarian settings. The three main outputs are:

1. The Matrix on Agency Roles and Responsibilities for Ensuring a Coordinated Multi-Sectoral Fuel Strategy in Humanitarian Settings

2. The Decision Tree Diagrams of Factors Affecting Choice of Fuel Strategy in Humanitarian settings

3. The International Network on Household Energy in Humanitarian Settings and its informational website,

Please also see the IASC mini training to help you to understand and disseminate the first two outputs.

We hope that these tools can provide you and your colleagues with guidance on how to respond to the issue of household energy and minimize the risks for persons of concern with regards to SGBV, environmental degradation and medical consequents of the use and collection of firewood. The Matrix and the Decision Tree are also available in poster format, which will be sent out to relevant field operations shortly.

Please also see the report:  Beyond Firewood: Fuel Alternatives and Protection Strategies for Displaced Women and Girls where the Women’s Refugee Commission outlines alternative fuel options, firewood collection techniques and other protection strategies that should be used in displaced and refugee situations

Creative Commons license:

<div xmlns:cc=”; about=””><a rel=”cc:attributionURL” href=””></a&gt; / <a rel=”license” href=””>CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</a></div>



  1. Well written!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: