Distribution of solar lamps at the refugee camps

by Simone Winneg,  2011/11/23

In her report about the latest relief measure in the south of Ethiopia the experienced coordinator Simone Winneg will tell you about how humedica literally brings light into the darkness. In addition to offering medical care by doctors and nurses, humedica distributed solar lamps at the Melkadida refugee camp.

During the training, the distribution assistants are shown how the toughstuff lamps work and how they are assembled. Photo: humedica

“Pitch-dark night at Melkadida. We have had a long day. As almost every day, the doctors and nurses have treated about 120 patients at the two humedica health stations at the Melkadida refugee camp. They could prescribe life-saving drugs and by doing so contribute to improving the refugees’ general situation.

Today, however, everything was a bit different from other days. As a result of the heavy rainfalls, the waters of the river we pass on our trip to Dollo Ado have risen extremely and we could not travel back to our actual base by car.

Since this had happened already several times before, we are prepared for a situation like this: accommodation has been prepared at Melkdadida – in tents, but equipped with the essential things you need for one or two nights. There is no electricity. Therefore we sit around a camp fire and realise how dark it is here.

In the city of Dollo Ado we electricity is a simple matter: there we just need to switch on the generator and the lights turn on. But at the tent cities of Melkadida, there are no generators. So, we just have the starlit sky above our heads and torches in our hands.

What is an exception for us, is the normal state of affairs for the refugees living at the camp. No one here has access to electricity and not everyone owns a torch. Batteries are not expensive; however they often keep only a few days. After the sun goes down, which it does at already 6 p.m., life is difficult.

Although the solar lamps are not essential for survival, they nevertheless can save lives and contribute to preventing accidents. Photo: humedica/Simone Winneg

School children hardly have an opportunity to do their homework. Even tasks like cooking and doing the household become a challenge after sunset. Not to mention the substantial safety risk the refugees are exposed to when they have to walk trough the camp at night to get to the toilets.

If there is no moon to light the landscape, it really is pitch-dark. You can hardly see your own hand in front of your face and the rain turns the camp and the paths into large puddles of mud and if you do not watch your footing and can’t see the ground you can slip easily.

This situation is more than desolate and affects the large majority of refugees and humedica contributes to improving it. In cooperation with UNHCR and ARRA, we drew up the plan to distribute solar lamps at the camps.

A long-term solution for the problem of darkness, which does not incur any consequential costs for the refugees – batteries will no longer be needed, because the accumulator can be charged day by day with solar light.

Together with toughstuff, a company that shows particular commitment to offer their products in the field of development work, this plan was then put into operation. A total of 6,000 lamps are to be distributed among the refugees – that means to 60 percent of the households at Melkadida.

But this is easier said than done. The solar package humedica intends to supply to the refugees includes one light, the rechargeable solar cells and a manual. Three units which need to be packaged first. It took 20 motivated assistants from the refugee camp and five days to make up the planned 6,000 packages from 18,000 individual units.

Although the solar lamps are not essential for survival, they can nevertheless save lives and contribute to preventing accidents. Photo: humedica/Simone Winneg

This, however, was not the only preparation we had to take. Fact is that solar lamps are not a simple torch, but that they dispose of particular functionalities we had to explain in detail to the refugees in order for them to use the lamps correctly and to benefit from them for a long time.

For this purpose, toughstuff employee Miriam Furze had travelled from England to Ethiopia, where she held a special training for the distribution assistants so that they would be able to explain how to use the solar lamps. After two hours of training, role plays and questions, everyone knew how the lamps worked: what the panel is for, what the lamp is for and how to charge it.

And then came the big day and the distribution started. Since we could not supply every single household, we had to come up with a criterion according to which we could choose the receivers.

In this case the criterion was the size of the families. The largest family at Melkadida consists of 13 family members. Starting from this family size, we step by step went on to those families with 12 members, 11 members, 10 members and so on, until we had distributed all the lamps.

With the help of lists, which were provided to us by UNHCR, we checked the rations cards each refugee receives when they register and which entitles them to receive food and other services at the camp.

On the first day, we could supply almost all the families of a size from 13 to eight members. This includes more than 700 persons, and it’s a good start. In the days to come, we will continue the distribution to the next smaller families, which are by far more numerous. More than 800 households e.g. consist of seven family members.

There is still a lot of work to be done, until we will have distributed all the 6,000 lamps among the refugees and until everyone disposes of a good source of light.

All this, dear friends and sponsors, is only possible thanks to your support and help. On behalf of our team here at Melkadida, on behalf of the refugees and of all those whose living circumstances have improved a little thanks to you, I would like to express my gratitude to you.

The team of assistants who helped to package and distribute the lamps at Melkadida. Photo: humedica

Please continue to support our commitment at the refugee camps in Dollo Ado also in future.
      humedica e. V.
      Donation reference "Famine relief Africa"
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren
      IBAN: DE35734500000000004747

Kind regards and God’s blessings.

Simone Winneg“

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