Easing the burden of life by providing firewood to refugee women in Ethiopia

Published: 7 August 2014 12:52 CET

Nyahok, 27, a mother four, has lined up for firewood along with other South Sudanese refugees at the Leitchour refugee camp in Ethiopia’s Gambella region, about 900 kilometres west of Addis Ababa. Despite the circumstances, she still has to feed her family.

Even though families receive food rations, they need firewood to cook. For most, just like in many rural settings in Africa, they can only use firewood as they lack stoves. People have to walk up to five kilometres to fetch firewood. This is particularly difficult for the old, disabled, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

At the Red Cross distribution site at the Leitchour camp, volunteers have been busy distributing the firewood and bars of soap to groups of refugees. In two rounds, 2,600 households received 72 kilogrammes of firewood which can last one month. Fuel saving stoves are being procured to make the utilization of the firewood more efficient and the firewood is being sourced in an environmentally sustainable manner from tea farms located in the north of the country.

“When I arrived in this camp one of the difficulties I faced was getting firewood to cook and feed my children. In order to collect firewood, I had to walk long distances carrying my baby or ask somebody to find some for me,” said Nyahok. “It is really hard because I am breastfeeding and have to look after my children on my own. I do not know where my husband is. But now as the Red Cross is providing us with firewood, it would ease my burden.”

The Ethiopia Red Cross Society is, together with the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the Swiss Red Cross, undertaking an emergency operation to respond to the needs of the South Sudanese refugees. Staff and volunteers are working closely with Movement partners to provide proper hygiene, sanitation, environmental cleaning, water delivery, household items and emergency health interventions.