New Blue Key Campaign for Refugees Urges Americans to Take Action
WASHINGTON, April 18, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As part of a new movement in social activism, the United States Association for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (USA for UNHCR) is calling on Americans to play a role in ending forest depletion around African refugee camps. The issue is a growing problem that harms the fragile ecosystems surrounding these vulnerable areas and contributes to physical harm and threats to the safety of young refugee women and girls responsible for collecting firewood for cooking.
To protect the African forests and safeguard refugee women and girls, USA for UNHCR is using the Earth Day 2011 observance on April 22 to raise awareness of deforestation around refugee camps and encourage support for the Blue Key Campaign -- a U.S.-based initiative to channel the energy of individual citizens to provide a better future for more than 43 million forcibly displaced people worldwide.
Deforestation around refugee camps is rampant. The traditional refugee campfire requires two to three pounds of firewood to boil 1.5 gallons of water and to make 15 pounds of rice. Wood consumption around refugee camps largely exceeds the natural production of wood resources. As refugees walk ever-longer distances to find firewood, environmental degradation spreads, and refugee women are at risk of sexual assault when traveling unprotected outside their camps.
Stoves such as the Save80, among other similar devices, use small pieces of firewood, usually too small for use in traditional fires, inserted into an opening at the base of the stove. By using firewood that would otherwise be overlooked and more efficiently retaining heat, the Save80 stove enables refugees to cook more food using less fuel. Each stove comes with a pan, a glass lid and a box for cooking with retained heat and costs $58.
Distributing fuel-efficient stoves in refugee camps will save up to 80 percent of the firewood needed for a traditional three-stone fire. If expanded, this program could save 102,784 metric tons of firewood annually, reversing the deforestation trend around refugee camps in Africa and helping achieve UN Millennium Development Goal 7: reversing the loss of environmental resources.
"This Earth Day, it is important to look at how ongoing conflicts around the world can have an effect on the environment," said Marc Breslaw, executive director of USA for UNHCR. "Reducing the amount of firewood needed in refugee camps can have a great impact on the local environment. In many countries such as Chad and Sudan, deforestation and degradation are serious concerns. Save80 stoves offer an environmentally-friendly solution to the needs of displaced people living in refugee camps."
Donations to USA for UNHCR through the Blue Key Campaign support UN Refugee Agency programs to provide these fuel-efficient stoves, and protection, shelter, emergency food, water, medical care and other life-saving assistance to more than 43 million people worldwide. By supporting the Blue Key, Americans are taking a stand both for the environment and the safety of refugees.
Supplying more Save80 stoves to African refugee camps will protect refugee women and girls, who, according to UNHCR, spend up to four days week collecting firewood outside the camps.
Usually traveling in small groups early in the morning, refugee women and girls regularly walk three or more miles to find enough flammable materials to cook breakfast at sunrise. This journey puts them at high exposure to the risk of rape and sexual attack from local militia and men living near the camps. Humanitarian aid agencies working on gender-based violence efforts report receiving upwards of 200 reports per month in Darfur alone.
"I am satisfied with the new stove, because now I spend less time searching for firewood. I spent four days a week with a bundle of firewood on my back in places far away. Now I go and collect firewood only once a week," says Mariam Moussa Arbab, a 52-year-old Sudanese refugee living in Touloum camp, Chad.
"Earth Day is a time when Americans are seeking ways to protect the environment. By supporting the Blue Key campaign, we have the opportunity to prevent deforestation while also making a difference for women and girls living in African refugee camps," said Breslaw. "It is rare that one small action can have such an immediate and significant impact."
Additional details about the Blue Key and Save80 stoves are online at http://bit.ly/save80.
About The Blue Key
An initiative of USA for UNHCR, the Blue Key Campaign supports refugees who are working hard to rebuild their lives. With the Blue Key, you'll join a community of refugees, celebrities and world leaders that are speaking out about the needs of displaced people around the world and unlocking the door to a better future. Since 1950, we've opened more than 50 million doors to a new life for refugees worldwide. Your Blue Key will open one more.
About USA for UNHCR
The United States Association for UNHCR (USA for UNHCR) supports the UN Refugee Agency's humanitarian work to protect and assist refugees around the world. We strive to meet the needs of the world's most vulnerable people, building support and awareness in the United States for UNHCR's life-saving relief programs. Established by concerned U.S. citizens, USA for UNHCR is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Washington, DC.
SOURCE USA for UNHCR