Pakistan + 1 more

UNHCR’s renewable energy project helps solve refugees’ problems

Feature story

Dalbandin, Chaghi District, Balochistan – 4 June 2021: Drawing water from a deep, open well and carrying heavy loads in jerrycans was hard work for 12-year-old refugee Sitara.

Helping to fetch water meant her family would have enough for drinking, cooking, washing and other daily needs. On her way back home, she would often rest for a moment, balancing her container on her head.

“It was so tiring that it used to give me body pain,” describes Sitara.

Now, she is relieved of this heavy task thanks a renewable energy projects which provides solar-powered water systems at her community’s doorstep.

Sitara lives in a refugee village called Chaghi, which is located in a north-western district of Balochistan.

In this refugee village, UNHCR and its partner, Water, Environment and Sanitation Society (WESS), have helped dig wells in closer proximity to the community and installed solar panels to power the water pumps. Water tanks were also put in place to store water for further distribution and use.

Today, these water systems provide much-needed clean drinking water for the refugee community, notably in a drought-prone area of the country. Due to the availability of water, refugees are increasingly self-reliant, doing their own gardening and growing fresh vegetables that they sell in the local marketplace.

The sustainable water systems are managed by the refugee community. As UNHCR Field Associate Abdul Hafeez explained, water management committees – consisting of refugee elders and youth – collect monthly contributions at the household level to help cover maintenance and running costs.

In total, 18 solar-powered water systems were put in place in six refugee villages – benefiting around 9,000 refugees in total. “It’s not only cost-effective but also environment-friendly as we avoid the use of fuel-powered pumps,” says Abdul Hafeez.

This approach fits within UNHCR’s Global Strategy for Sustainable Energy launched in 2019. This four-year Strategy promotes the transition to clean, renewable energy in refugee settlements and hosting areas.

Rahim Barakzai, a refugee elder who looks after one water site in the Chaghi refugee village and is part of the local water management committee, spoke with excitement about the water system.

“Women and children are safe from the various safety and security risks involved in fetching water in remote locations. Women can now focus on other tasks, such as raising poultry to help make ends meet,” said Rahim Barakzai.

“Clean water near our homes has also helped stop the spread of water-borne diseases,” he added.

Sitara is also reaping the benefits of this eco-friendly project implemented by UNHCR and its partner.

“I’m feeling comfortable because I have enough time for my studies. Now, I play with friends instead of fetching water far away from home,” she said, breathing a sigh of relief.

By Qaiser Khan Afridi