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UN launches environmental project for Rohingyas and Bangladeshis

  • Published at 01:52 pm September 23rd, 2018
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A woman, among others, receives stove and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cylinder Courtesy

SAFE Plus aims to prevent further deforestation of Cox’s Bazar

Families living in the world's largest refugee camp, this week, received the first 2,500 stoves and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders that are part of a United Nations project aimed at protecting the environment and building the resilience of people living in Cox's Bazar.

The UN project, SAFE Plus (Safe Approaches to Fuel and Energy Plus Landscape Restoration and Livelihoods), aims to eventually provide 125,000 host community and refugee families with LPG stoves—to prevent further deforestation caused by the need of firewood for cooking. SAFE Plus is a partnership between the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and World Food Program (WFP).

When some 700,000 Rohingya refugees fled to Cox's Bazar, to escape violence in Myanmar in August last year, much of the area's protected forest was cut down for fuel and shelter—dramatically increasing the risk of flooding and landslides due to soil erosion. The new LPG stoves will allow families to cook safely without needing to gather firewood from dwindling forests. They will also improve the safety of women and children, who risk gender-based violence and animal attacks when they go to collect wood. Additionally, the stoves should also reduce health risks caused by smoke inhalation from open fires.

Host community and refugee families with LPG stoves will receive the fuel that they need through WFP's “multi-wallet” transfer solution. The agency's beneficiary and transfer management platform, called SCOPE, identifies recipients by biometric authentication and ensures that the assistance they receive is accurately recorded and managed. “Fuel wallets” on their SCOPE assistance cards will record the LPG they receive—together with food and other items.

"Creating sustainable access to LPG for cooking is the critical piece in the jigsaw of addressing deforestation and reforestation," said Peter Agnew, FAO’s program manager in Bangladesh. "It eliminates the demand for firewood, which in turn allows us to replant deforested areas with confidence—knowing that new trees will not be dug up and sold as kindling."

"Enabling access to alternative fuel sources encourages more environmentally-sustainable practices. Deforestation is a major concern. Furthermore, families predominantly cook indoors, so we are quite concerned about the impact of smoke from cooking fires on people's respiratory health," said IOM Emergency Coordinator Manuel Pereira.

"We know limited access to firewood results in coping strategies such as undercooking food," said WFP Emergency Coordinator Peter Guest. "We are therefore strengthening food security by giving people better and safer access to fuel. The SCOPE platform is helping both WFP and our UN partners to deliver humanitarian assistance more efficiently."

Today, there are more than 919,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. These refugees as well as the Bangladeshi host communities comprise at least 1.3 million people who rely on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs. The SAFE Plus initiative is supported by Ireland, Japan, and the United States of America. It assists the work of the Government of Bangladesh, notably the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission under the Ministry of Disaster Relief and Management.