Democratic Republic of Congo: Safe Access To Fuel and Energy (SAFE) 2017

from World Food Programme
Published on 28 Dec 2017 View Original

Saving lives through SAFE cooking

WFP works to ensure that the food assistance provided can be consumed as safely and nutritiously as possible. While cooking may be thought of as a safe activity, in many circumstances, especially humanitarian settings, it poses serious health, safety and environmental risks. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), internally displaced populations are facing severe challenges related to the lack of access to cooking fuel. Most households depend largely on firewood and charcoal for domestic energy needs, including cooking.


  • Insufficient cooking fuel to prepare food often leads to households reducing their meals from three to one or none per day.

  • Most women cook using a traditional three-stone fire. When there is insufficient cooking fuel, people may use organic waste, plastic or garbage instead, exposing themselves to toxic fumes and serious health hazards.

  • Firewood collection involves the risk of gender-based violence and attack, especially against women and girls.

  • The densely populated eastern DRC is experiencing increasing rates of deforestation and environmental degradation due to slash-and-burn agriculture, fuelwood collection, charcoal production and brick-making.

The challenge More than two decades of armed conflict in DRC have left millions of people internally displaced. As charcoal is expensive and firewood increasingly scarce, lack of access to cooking fuel is threatening the safety, health and livelihoods of displaced populations.

Women and children are particularly affected, as they are often the ones responsible for collecting firewood and preparing meals for their families. During long collection trips, they are exposed to a high risk of sexual and gender-based violence. In addition, the trips take valuable time away from more productive pursuits such as education and income-generating activities.

Health and nutrition are also negatively affected by low or no access to cooking fuel as households may skip meals, undercook or sell food to buy fuel. Cooking with biomass fuel on open fire exposes women and children to higher risks of respiratory diseases and other health problems. Finally, competition for scarce resources is causing tensions between displaced and host communities.