219620 8/5/2009 16:03 09GENEVA657 Mission Geneva UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY VZCZCXRO3653 RR RUEHBZ DE RUEHGV #0657/01 2171603 ZNR UUUUU ZZH R 051603Z AUG 09 FM USMISSION GENEVA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9044 RHMFIUU/HQ EPA WASHINGTON DC RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 1866 RUEHNJ/AMEMBASSY NDJAMENA 0266 RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 0557 RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0936 RUEHAN/AMEMBASSY ANTANANARIVO 0072 RUEHAE/AMEMBASSY ASMARA 0258 RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 0105 RUEHKB/AMEMBASSY BAKU 0208 RUEHBP/AMEMBASSY BAMAKO 0128 RUEHBD/AMEMBASSY BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN 0064 RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 2020 RUEHGI/AMEMBASSY BANGUI 0016 RUEHJL/AMEMBASSY BANJUL 0150 RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5871 RUEHBW/AMEMBASSY BELGRADE 0001 RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK 0232 RUEHBZ/AMEMBASSY BRAZZAVILLE 0023 RUEHWN/AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN 0141 RUEHBM/AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST 0969 RUEHJB/AMEMBASSY BUJUMBURA 0036 RUEHCH/AMEMBASSY CHISINAU 0162 RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0551 RUEHRY/AMEMBASSY CONAKRY 0166 RUEHCO/AMEMBASSY COTONOU 0181 RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 0888 RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM 0460 RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0439 RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE 0007 RUEHFN/AMEMBASSY FREETOWN 0258 RUEHOR/AMEMBASSY GABORONE 0171 RUEHGE/AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN 0070 RUEHGT/AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA 0387 RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI 0959 RUEHSB/AMEMBASSY HARARE 0410 RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 5213 RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 2252 RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1299 RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 0529 RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM 5331 RUEHLGB/AMEMBASSY KIGALI 0500 RUEHKG/AMEMBASSY KINGSTON 0201 RUEHKI/AMEMBASSY KINSHASA 0663 RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 0217 RUEHLC/AMEMBASSY LIBREVILLE 0112 RUEHLG/AMEMBASSY LILONGWE 0172 RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 0748 RUEHPC/AMEMBASSY LOME 0166 RUEHLU/AMEMBASSY LUANDA 0035 RUEHLS/AMEMBASSY LUSAKA 0352 UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 GENEVA 000657
STATE FOR IO/EDA, OED FOR DWILUSZ, PRM/AFR FOR WHENNING, INR/EC FOR PHOPKE, EAP FOR BBEHN, PCIA FOR BDOROSKI, JMITCHELL
TAGS: SENV, ECON, UNEP, UNHCR SUBJECT: Solar Cookers present potential solutions for Indoor Air Pollution, Refugee Camps
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1.(U) Summary : In a June 29 2009 side event on the margins of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Annual Consultations with NGOs, the nonprofit organization Solar Cookers International (SCI) hosted an informal discussion entitled Integrated Solutions to Cooking Needs and Safe Water, to explore the feasibility of renewable domestic energy in refugee situations. The dozen participants concluded that solar cookers can mitigate indoor air pollution and improve refugees safety by eliminating their need to forage for firewood. They also agreed that the use of a Water Pasteurization Indicator (WPI) would aid refugees in sterilizing water at a reduced fuel and labor cost. However, as the Regional Refugee Coordinator for the Horn of Africa noted in an email comment, solar cookers face significant deployment challenges, including outright rejection of the technology. The success of these technologies will therefore rely upon comprehensive training programs and follow up to ensure proper and continued use. END SUMMARY
2. (U) In humanitarian situations, fuel scarcity and poverty create conditions where refugees must spend excessive amounts of time in search of cooking fuel, primarily firewood. Because women and girls bear the greatest burden of firewood collection, they are placed in inordinate risk of physical and sexual assault or arrest during their outings. Traditional cooking methods also pose a public health risk because indoor cooking smoke has high concentrations of particulate matter and carcinogens. A WHO report from 2007 publishes that indoor smoke from solid fuel cook stoves poses the fourth highest burden of disease in poor developing countries. Typical 24- hour levels of particulate matter in biomass-using homes in
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Africa, Asia, or Latin America are 6 to 60 times higher than the EPA standard for outdoor air.
3. (U) Solar Cookers are most effective in regions where there is already a shortage of traditional biomass energy. The UNHCR, for example, distributes firewood to refugees, but averages only 30 percent of a given camps' requirement; refugees must forage for the remainder. Additionally, because of widespread poverty, populations will often sell the donated firewood for income generation. Because solar cookers require no fuel, they can alleviate the pressure placed on refugee populations to supplement the relief aid through foraging.
4. (U) SCI promotes the dissemination of solar cookers in humanitarian situations. Their major operations are in Iridimi (Chad), Aisha (Ethiopia), and Kakuma and Dadaab (Kenya). Solar cookers reflective structures are designed to concentrate solar rays in order to heat food or water. SCI Executive Director Patrick Widner noted that SCI acknowledges the issue of sunlight availability: solar cookers do not work in the shade. However, he said that solar cookers are one part of an integrated package to reduce the health and resource burden of food preparation.
5. (U) Refugee camps often face challenges providing sufficient quantities of clean, potable water to their inhabitants; there is a persistent need for water sterilization techniques that are affordable and efficient. SCI demonstrated a new technology for ensuring water sterility in refugee situations. The Water Pasteurization Indicator (WPI) is a portable and durable thermometer containing a waxen rod that melts at the exact temperature of pasteurization. Pasteurization is gaining ground as an alternative for boiling water because it sufficiently sterilizes while requiring a lower heating
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temperature and therefore less fuel and preparation time. The WPI is reusable and can aid refugees in cleaning their water in a rapid manner, though Mr. Widner noted that training courses might be necessary to ensure a successful rollout.
Recommendations from Discussion Participants
6. (U) The participants noted that one challenge facing the rollout is cultural rejection of solar cooking, as certain meals are more difficult to prepare using the current solar cooker model. Representatives from SCI noted that some cultural resistance was found on account of unfamiliarity causing fear that the new cooker would burn or otherwise injure the user. Participants agreed that refugees and other users could be surveyed for potential design changes that might better adjust the Solar Cooker model to their specific food preparation needs.
7. (U) Mr. Valentine Ndibalema of the Environmental and Technology Support Section of the UNHCR noted that a primary aspect for consideration is the creation of extension services (e.g. training for users, and monitoring of stove use) to aid the transition from technology deployment to sustainable and long term use. In addition, the discussion revealed concerns that refugees might revert to traditional cooking methods in the absence of such extension services, stressing that creating a legacy of solar cooking and sustainable fuel cooking, generally is the most important part of SCIs development strategy.
8. (SBU) Mission contacted the Regional Refugee Coordinator (RRC) for the Horn of Africa, based in Addis Ababa, regarding the use of solar cookers in refugee situations. The RRC
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replied that, in her experience, refugees who are given solar cookers often don't use them. She cited the Somali population in Dadaab, who traditionally cook at night, a cultural practice that makes using a solar cooker impossible. The RRC also noted, however, that recent circumstances in Dadaab might make for an effective solar cooker intervention. There has been no firewood supply contract in the camp since January due to price negotiations. Additionally, the host community has begun voicing complaints about environmental degradation due to refugee firewood harvesting, and though Dadaab is designed to hold 90,000 people, it currently contains over 287,000 people. The RRC also noted that (quote) the biggest pitfall seems to be a lack of follow up to make sure refugees are using them (solar cookers) properly or using them at all, and to reinforce the message of why solar cookers are better to use. (end quote)
9. (SBU) The success of solar cookers depends on finding the right balance of technological intervention and preserving cultural integrity. Other companies are pursuing sustainable cooking solutions in refugees camps other than solar cookers. One such example is the NGO GAIA in Ethiopia, which promotes an ethanol stove. Another example is the German NGO GTZ, which conducts workshops in refugee camps in Dadaab on effective and fuel-efficient stove design; GTZ's workshops can provide sustainable cooking solutions where solar cookers are rejected by target populations.
10. (SBU) The Water Pasteurization Indicator (WPI), has the potential to provide quality of life improvements in camps through a low fuel-cost water sterilization alternative to boiling. SCI and other NGOs operating in camps
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should consider rolling out the WPI and similar technologies independent of solar cooker programs. END Comment.