Q&A with Corinne Hart of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

Corinne HartMs. Hart is the Director of the Gender and Humanitarian Programs at the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. She designs and manages the Alliance’s strategies and programs on humanitarian response, gender, and women’s empowerment. Corinne is leading the Alliance’s humanitarian work to improve procurement processes for cookstoves and fuels, enhance the quality of technologies promoted in humanitarian settings, and reduce vulnerability to gender-based violence and malnutrition that can result from limited access to cooking fuel. She recently responded to the questions below from WASHplus, about cookstoves for refugees and displaced persons.

What is the current estimate of numbers of refugees and displaced persons without access to clean stoves or fuels?

More than 30 million refugees and internally displaced people lack access to clean cookstoves and fuels.

What is the impact of this lack of access on both the refugees/IDPs (internally displaced persons) and surrounding communities?

Most of the food provided by humanitarian agencies must be cooked before it can be eaten, but cookstoves and fuel are rarely provided. As a result, women and children must risk their safety, health, and sometimes their lives to search for and collect firewood to cook food over smoky, polluting open fires.

It is well documented that in many cases, displaced women walk for hours to find firewood in conflict areas and carry heavy loads back to camp, which puts them at risk for physical and sexual attack, dehydration, and physical injuries.

For example, in 2014 in Uganda’s Nakivale refugee settlement, 41 percent of households reported incidences of violence during firewood collection. Additionally, in areas where firewood is the main source of fuel for all people, such as in sub-Saharan Africa, the competition for dwindling natural resources is a trigger for tension between displaced people and host communities.

The health risks related to exposure to household air pollution are also more severe among refugees and IDPs. One study among refugees in Nepal found that mortality rates from acute respiratory infections (ARI) were roughly 10–17 times higher among refugee populations than among those in non-crisis settings.

In Burundi, mortality rates from ARI were four times higher among refugees than their non-displaced peers. ARI is consistently among the top three causes of death in crisis settings, and yet humanitarian agencies rarely prioritize preventative interventions.

Which countries/regions have the greatest problem?

The Democratic Republic of Congo has the greatest problem. As of the end of 2014, more than 3.6 million people living in DRC were forcibly displaced due to ongoing war and conflict, and more than 93 percent of them use traditional solid fuels and stoves to cook meals for their family. Women in particular are at an incredibly high risk of attack when they go to collect firewood.

The Alliance is working closely with the DRC government’s Ministry of Gender, Family and Child to integrate access to cookstoves and fuels into their policies for women and displaced people, and hope to work closely with them to implement clean cooking solutions in the coming year.

Sudan and South Sudan are two other countries that have large populations of displaced people without access to energy. Combined, more than 4 million displaced people lack access to safer, cleaner fuels and cookstoves.

Our partners at UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Program, and Oxfam have all recently put programs in place to help address the dire need for improved cookstoves and fuels.

The Alliance is also working closely with our partners in Rwanda and Kenya to improve access to clean cookstoves and fuels within refugee camps. Kenya is home to the largest refugee camp in the world, Dadaab, with nearly 350,000 displaced people.

What are some innovative and effective ways to provide clean cookstoves and/or fuels to displaced populations?

It depends on the type and phase of the crisis. During a rapid response, such as immediately after a natural disaster or during a large influx of refugees, immediate distribution of cookstoves and fuels is a necessary and effective way to ensure that displaced people can cook their food in safety.

For this phase, the Alliance works with its humanitarian partners like UNHCR to ensure that the products being distributed meet minimum standards of quality so that those suffering from disaster receive the benefits intended by aid agencies, and the follow-up necessary to ensure the products stay in working order.

In cases of complex emergencies and prolonged displacement, innovative distribution mechanisms that combine market-based principles and subsidies have been successful. For example in South Sudan, Oxfam provided fuel-efficient stoves, charcoal, and commodity vouchers to people living in a refugee camp.

The recipients of the vouchers were able to use them to buy charcoal from pre-selected charcoal vendors within the camp. This allowed inhabitants of the camp to secure fuel for cooking, and charcoal retailers earned income from the purchases within the camp.

In Rwanda, carbon finance has successfully been used to provide fuel efficient stoves to refugees while allowing UNHCR to earn carbon credits. The money earned from the credits are partially reinvested back into the program to purchase more stoves.

In areas transitioning from crisis to development, implementers can begin to transition to market-based models and can leverage innovative financing and distribution mechanisms.

For example, the Alliance provided start-up funding for a revolving loan fund, run by Potential Energy in Darfur, which allowed users to receive improved stoves on loan while paying back in installments from fuel savings.

How is the Alliance supporting work to address this issue?

Since 2010, the Alliance has been committed to reaching the world’s most vulnerable populations through its targeted humanitarian program, which complements its market-based work in development settings. The Alliance’s humanitarian strategy is structured around six strategic pillars:

Pillar 1: Coordinate the sector and share information
Pillar 2: Commission research and build evidence
Pillar 3: Provide technical support, tools, and guidance for implementation
Pillar 4: Build human resource capacity
Pillar 5: Advocate for the sector
Pillar 6: Mobilize resources

These strategic pillars align with the global Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) Working Group, which the Alliance co-chairs. They were selected through detailed consultations with stakeholders in the humanitarian and energy sectors.

By working within these six strategic areas, the Alliance aims to institutionalize energy access in the humanitarian response system and to reach 1 million crisis-affected households with cleaner and more efficient cooking solutions by the end of Phase II (2017).

What other thoughts would you like to share?

Coordination of and response to energy access needs for crisis-affected people needs a formal place within the humanitarian response system. There is no designated cluster that is in charge of addressing energy needs for those in crisis, and as a result, the dire impacts caused by the lack of cooking, lighting, powering, and heating energy are too often ignored. We need to have mechanisms to fund energy access in crises, and we need to have someone who is responsible.

The Alliance strongly urges donors, humanitarian agencies, civil society, governments, and the private sector to continue to include crisis-affected people in their energy access strategies. Access to cleaner and more fuel-efficient cookstoves and alternative fuels is a crucial need in humanitarian response, and it can no longer be ignored.

Innovative solutions already exist, and new technologies are being developed every day that have the potential to save lives, protect vulnerable people, preserve the environment, strengthen socio-economic outcomes, and improve livelihoods.

As outlined in the SAFE mapping, nearly 150 energy projects are being implemented in humanitarian settings using innovative approaches such as cash vouchers, revolving loan funds, and refugee-led enterprises, but there has been little formal recognition or support from the broader humanitarian community.

We must ensure that energy for cooking is recognized as a life-saving intervention for people affected by instability and crises, and that existing technologies and fuels are made accessible to those who need them most.

For additional information on this issue access the SAFE website, our latest Gender-Based Violence resource, and our submission to the World Humanitarian Summit.

A Gender Dialogue

By Ron Clemmer, Strategy and Business Development Manager, WASH, FHI 360.

photoAbout the author: Ron Clemmer joined FHI360 in May after working with World Vision as Senior Technical Advisor for WASH for six years. Ron is passionate about building sustainable water and sanitation services through the public and private sectors, hygiene behavior change that becomes habit, and integrated programming of WASH with nutrition, HIV, neglected tropical diseases, education, and women’s empowerment.

“I was fortunate to attend last week’s World Water Week 2015 in Stockholm which included, among many other activities, attending three different water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and gender sessions. Having five hours of presentations and discussion on WASH and gender issues in one day was remarkable. Great that gender had so much focus! One of the presentations I found fascinating was research on the psychosocial stress of women and girls related to WASH, presented by Robert Dreibelbis, from the University of Oklahoma. WASH programming can provide a good entry point for working with communities for many development goals, including empowerment of women and gender equity, was one of the conclusions of the session.

At World Water Week, I shared how the USAID-funded WASHplus project, implemented by FHI 360, is strengthening girl’s and boy’s education by integrating and embedding WASH in Schools and providing support for menstrual hygiene management.


Photo Credit: German Toilet Organisation

World Water Week was part of two weeks of intense dialogue of women empowerment for me. The week before, I had multiple communications on women’s empowerment surrounding WASH with my FHI 360 colleagues working on the WASHplus project, as we have begun discussing how to support the representation of WASH issues at Women Deliver 2016 Conference. We discussed how WASH not only addresses health issues, but also influences safety, time poverty, and dignity for women and girls.

If you are not familiar, Women Deliver is a leading global advocate for girls’ and women’s health, rights, and wellbeing and brings together diverse voices and interests to drive investments and progress, particularly in maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights. The focus of the Women Deliver 2016 Conference will be on how development can best support girls and women, with a specific lens on health, rights, gender equality, education, and economic empowerment.

As the father of two young girls, I often think about girl’s empowerment and what that means for society at large. I am fortunate to work in an organization which empowers women and girls through not just the provision of improved WASH but also the integration of WASH into other development sectors to strengthen girls and women’s rights, health, and wellbeing.

Before I ran to the airport to catch my flight to Stockholm, I was involved in women’s empowerment in an entirely personal way. My 12 year old daughter was participating in her 3rd triathlon while my wife was enjoying listening to my younger daughter’s piano recital. We are grateful for the opportunities that our daughters have to flourish into empowered young women, as I strive in my work to contribute to the empowerment of less privileged girls around the world.”

WASHplus Pilots Integration Program for WASH and NTD Interventions in Burkina Faso

NTDsWASHplus is implementing a pilot program in Burkina Faso that is designed to develop an integrated WASH–NTD model that can be scaled up in-country and replicated elsewhere. Burkina Faso is a country with very little latrine coverage, relatively poor hygiene practices, and pockets of high burden of disease related to water, sanitation, and hygiene. Without a serious focus on face washing and environmental cleanliness.

WASHplus is working in Burkina Faso to partner with stakeholders at district and provincial levels to implement a comprehensive WASH–NTD integrated program in one district. We will then document and disseminate the learnings gained through this pilot program. WASHplus will also engage multiple stakeholders inside and outside of government, including working with existing government structures at multiple levels, such as local government that has the mandate for water and sanitation at the local level. Typically, WASH and NTD programs have not worked together in Burkina Faso, though some precedence exists for inter-sectoral collaboration through the WASH-Nutrition group that has been spearheaded by UNICEF and embraced by government stakeholders.

To learn more about the pilot in Burkina Faso read this brief prepared by WASHplus: “WASHing Away Worms and Other Neglected Tropical Diseases .”

To learn more about WASHplus work in NTDs visit the WASHplus website (http://www.washplus.org/wash-ntds).

WASHing Away Worms and Other Neglected Tropical Diseases

wash ntd integration

More than 1 billion people worldwide suffer from one or more painful, debilitating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). These diseases disproportionately impact poor and rural populations, causing severe sickness and disability, compromising mental and physical development, contributing to childhood malnutrition, reducing school enrollment, and hindering economic productivity. Soil-transmitted helminths (STH), including round worm, whip worm, and hook worm, as well as schistosomiasis (bilharzia) and trachoma, are all clearly linked to inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene, indicating a need for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions to battle these NTDs. Although mass drug administration is key to reducing NTDs, reinfection will remain a problem if WASH behaviors are not addressed.

WASHplus is documenting the links between WASH and NTDs and exploring ways to integrate WASH into NTD programs. WASHplus has conducted a global desk review that highlights integration in eight countries. The team assessed the possibilities for integrating WASH into NTDs in two countries: Bangladesh and Burkina Faso, and ultimately chose the latter in which to implement a pilot program. WASHplus is piloting an integration program for WASH and NTD interventions in Burkina Faso, designed to develop an integrated WASH–NTD model that can be scaled up in-country and replicated elsewhere (Click here to learn more about the Burkisa Faso WASH-NTD pilot intervention).

Globally, WASHplus is collaborating with organizations already engaged in WASH–NTD integration such as the International Coalition for Trachoma Control and the SHARE consortium, which are developing tools and indicators to facilitate WASH–NTDs integration.

Want to learn more about WASHplus’s NTD work? Visit the WASHplus project website.

For more information on what WASHplus is doing regarding integration of WASH and NTD programming, contact Renuka Bery (rbery@fhi360.org) or Ron Clemmer (rclemmer@fhi360.org).

A Learning Brief on Small Doable Actions: A Feasible Approach to Behavior Change

The USAID-funded WASHplus project aims to improve the supply and quality of water and sanitation facilities and hygiene practices, and reduce household air pollution. This involves facilitating better access to hardware and services while focusing on approaches to improve water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)-related practices. The overarching WASHplus behavior change approach is built around the notion that people rarely go from current practice to ideal
practice at once, for example, from a sedentary lifestyle to five aerobic exercise sessions a week, or from open defecation to consistent use of a flush toilet connected to a septic system. Many factors influence the performance or nonperformance of a behavior. Therefore, WASHplus’s
behavior change approach identifies and addresses the key factors most influential in improving particular WASH practices of communities, families, and individuals.

SDA rainwater harvestingThe Small Doable Action Approach Improving Practices of Individuals and Households
WASHplus incorporates a small doable action approach to change WASH and household air pollution practices in its global- and country-level activities. Rather than promoting the ideal WASH practices (e.g., build and use a flush toilet or insist that all family members wash hands at all five critical junctions using running water and soap), we construct a continuum of behaviors that span from unacceptable to ideal. Small doable actions (SDAs) are behaviors that are deemed feasible to perform in resource-constrained settings, from the householder point of view, and effective at personal and public health levels. Behaviors that meet these two criteria—feasible and effective—are considered small doable actions and are included in the menu of options for WASH behavioral improvement. Stepping stone behaviors that may be on the pathway but do not directly yield impact are not considered SDAs, (e.g., buying cement or singing the happy hygiene song). To move toward the ideal, WASHplus supports improving WASH behaviors, one SDA at a time.

Download the Learning Brief – Small Doable Actions: A Feasible Approach to Behavior Change.