Trials and Triumphs of the Nigerian Insurgency: Youth for Safe Energy Initiative

Happy Amos writes on Nigeria’s Internally Displaced People and the Youth for Safe Energy Initiative

Happy Amos is the Managing Director of Roshan Global Services Limited that manufactures energy saving, clean cook stoves for household use, correspondingly addressing women’s health issues.

Nigerian Internally Displaced People situation practically remains the same with about a little over 3 million people still displaced, however the good news is that the Nigerian army is winning the fight against the insurgency and the security situation has greatly improved and quite a number of kidnap person are being returned. Recently the government is making arrangements and encouraging the IDP communities to return home. However there is practically no home to go to since most of the communities has been totally destroyed by the insurgency.

The IDPs are faced with a lot of problems, such as overcrowding in the camps with incidence of poor hygiene and health issues, most of the camps are poorly lighted, lack of access to energy and fuel and lack of employment, as abled bodied young people are doing nothing, only waiting for hand outs.

Women and children are mostly the ones saddled with the responsibility of cooking for the family especially in camps where food is not cooked centrally. Now because of this they are often equally left with the burden to find the fuel for cooking either fuel wood or charcoal at most times and thus have the need to either walk long distance away from the camps to fetch the wood or into their host community which at most time are not very familiar with the terrain, this automatically exposes them to danger and some of the women say the sometimes they go in a group or they spend most of what they have on charcoal and it the night due to poor lighting in the camp they are exposed to harassments and extortion. However if priority was given to access to clean cook stoves, fuel and lighting, the women and children won’t be so exposed to such danger.

Access to clean and safe energy is very important to people in emergency situations because most at times food given to IDPs are dry and dense and needs to be cooked before eaten and neither cookstoves or fuel are being provided in most situation, so IDPs resort to using three stone stoves that consumes lots of wood, emits too much smoke that affects the health of the women.  This IDP women will have to walk long distance into the bush to get wood and the process a lot of them get harassed, injured or beaten by a snake or other dangerous animals and due to high demand for the wood trees in surrounding environment begins to finish. The same goes to lighting in the camp due poor visibility women who go out in the night are harassed or extorted. In the light of this access to safe energy and fuel cannot be over emphasize as it goes a long way to meet the important need for energy and saves the women from harassment, health danger and gives proper lighting for even the children to do their homework in safe environment without the risk of burn.

In emergency situation, water, food, shelter and sanitation take precedence over other issues especially access to safe energy and fuel which to me is seen as a secondary need, in other to bridge this gap priority has to be given and access to safe energy and fuel needs to be seen as important component of the relief process. “How am I expected to cook the food and water given to me being that am displaced from my home without cookstoves and fuel?” the stove and fuel to cook my meals is as important as the food items, water, shelter and sanitation. Therefore we call on the United Nations office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs to give precedents to clean cookstoves, clean and safe fuel and energy in humanitarian response and make it mandatory as the other components. Just as there is cluster for food, there should be a cluster for safe energy and fuel and let humanitarian agencies recognise this need and begin to work towards meeting such an important but neglected need.

Youth for Safe Energy Initiative has been actively advocating and raising our voices for the inclusion of Safe Energy and fuel in humanitarian response during the WHS and our expectation was at least let energy access be recognised as an important but neglected component and for it to be included the final cause of action and for WHS to be a beginning of this cause being possible. Energy Access in Emergency

So far youth for Safe Energy Initiative has received a positive response and support from our partners in SAFE – Safe Access to Fuel and Energy which is humanitarian working group and the National Emergency Management Agency of Nigeria has also been very supportive but we have not had access to the key players in United Nations, as none of our emails has been replied.

Based on our own experience getting to be heard by the responsible UN agency before and during the WHS was very difficult as mentioned earlier our mails were not returned and we did not know or have any avenue to get the United Nations to hear us and give us fare hearing about this very important and neglected component – Energy Access.

Youth for Safe Energy Initiative believe that it is not sustainable for IDP to depend on hand-outs only but they can be involve in innovations and process that will make their living condition a lot easier. Like in the energy access, clean cook stoves can be locally fabricated and bio char locally produced.  So we are saying IDPs should be trained in the fabrication and be empowered to begin making and selling this stoves and bio char in the IDP communities and beyond thereby making the stoves and fuel readily available, giving  them access to safe energy and fuel at the same time giving them a source of livelihood. And this approach can be used in other aspects of the IDP needs and it’s sustainable and has the capacity to curtail further crisis as most of the people involved in the insurgence are unemployed youth.

When emergencies occur, coordination is necessary. Good coordination means less gaps and overlaps in the assistance delivered by humanitarian organisations thus the United Nations cluster system. Clusters are groups of humanitarian organisations, both UN and non UN, in each of the main sectors of humanitarian action e.g. water, health, and logistics. They are designed by Inter- agency standing committee (IASC) and have clear responsibilities for coordination. This system is well coordinated covering most of the important issues such as food security, health, logistics, nutrition, protection, shelter, water sanitation and Hygiene, camp coordination and management, early recovery, education, and emergency telecommunications. The gap we noticed in this well organised system is the need for Energy Access clusters because Energy access affects nearly every aspect of humanitarian aid such as food security and nutrition, protection, health, livelihood and environment and as such it is important it is given high priority.

When funding comes for humanitarian aid it most goes to large organisations such as UN and international NGOs  and local NGO and humanitarian organisations do not have access to such funding, and we are saying that the local organisations are usually the first respondents and are close to the people, they have easy access and are more easily acceptable and they are aware of the nooks and cranny of the  locality and understand the basic need of the people more than strangers ( international Organisations) but they do not have access to funding as most of it is taken by the big guys. Therefore we saying that local NGOs and humanitarian organisations should be given access to fund too and we believe humanitarian needs will be met more efficiently.

Youth for Safe Energy Initiative has begun to get support from the Nigerian youths are beginning to be aware of the importance of safe and clean energy on people livelihood and the environment, however it is a very young organisation and has a lot of work to do and create more awareness.  We see a future in Nigeria where her youths will be at the forefront of its energy needs solution. We will be part of the solution rather than the problem.

Youth for Safe Energy Initiative believe that Access to Safe Energy and Fuel is a right of every individual especially for those in emergency situations and it’s a need too important to be ignored.

Posted Date: 09 Jun 2016 | Views (864)