The World Food Programme together with its partner, INTERSOS, has distributed fuel-efficient stoves to 7,340 displaced families receiving WFP food assistance in the town of Banki, Nigeria’s Borno State.
The stoves distribution is an effort to improve people’s quality of life and reduce the protection risks faced by women and girls, in particular, when they have to gather firewood from unsafe areas.
WFP has been present in Banki since 2016 providing monthly food rations to some 45,000 people who are entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance.
The stoves, which were distributed under WFP’s Safe Access to Fuel and Energy Initiative, are intended to bring multiple benefits to almost every family living in the camp.
An assessment carried out by WFP in January 2018 in four local government areas in Borno State revealed that 85 per cent of women felt at risk when collecting firewood from various threats, including violence, sexual assault and even abduction.
Seventy-six per cent of those surveyed were not able to cover their daily cooking needs due to inadequate supplies of firewood and 70 per cent have no access to wood fuel resources in their immediate living environment as a result of the insecurity arising from the ongoing conflict between the security forces and Non-State Armed Actors, which has limited people’s movements.
“When we distribute food to a vulnerable population, our aim is to make sure that people are able to prepare that food safely without putting themselves in harm’s way,” explains Sarah Longford, Country Director of WFP in Nigeria.
“We’re stepping in to protect women and young girls whose lives are exposed to great danger while crossing unsafe territories to fetch firewood. These stoves burn 50 per cent less fuel when compared to conventional open cooking fires. This reduces the burden of care on women and girls who can spend less time spent on gathering firewood.”
Firewood is also becoming an increasingly scarce and expensive commodity in towns where population movements are restricted.
Quite often, families have been forced into poor dietary habits because they cannot afford fuel, which means they risk eating undercooked food, rely on less nutritious foods that do not require cooking or eat fewer meals.
The stoves also have additional health and environmental benefits.
They help to prevent further deforestation and produce far less smoke than traditional fires, reducing the incidence of respiratory diseases.
Furthermore, the design of the stoves reduces the safety risks such as fires, when used inside houses.
Together with other food security partners, WFP has been advocating with the Nigerian Armed Forces to ensure that affected populations have safer access to firewood collection.
This includes increasing the number of patrols responsible for accompanying civilians.
WFP plans to roll out the stoves distribution programme across four additional local government areas in Borno State and is finalising plans to begin the second phase of a longer term project aimed at increasing income-generating opportunities and boosting the livelihoods of people in the camps.
This involves training women and girls in how to manufacture and market the fuel-efficient cooking stoves locally.