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Renewable energy powers hope in Rwanda’s refugee camps 

By Berthille Kampire, Practical Action Rwanda On 16.09.2020 CoronavirusEnergy

Coronavirus has exposed existing vulnerabilities in refugee camps in Rwanda, but sustainable energy is helping people cope with the pandemic. 

For refugee communities in Rwanda, coronavirus has made an already tough way of life even more difficult Social gatherings are not permitted. Only essential shops are open and schools have been closed to prevent the spread of the virus 

 Imagine life in lockdown without electric lights to work and study by. Without a phone to connect with friends and family. With no way of accessing learning materials or knowing what’s happening around the world. This is the reality of life without electricity in Rwanda’s refugee camps. 


Siblings listen to radio lessons on a device powered by solar energy.

Siblings listen to radio lessons on a device powered by solar energy.

Connecting pupils to radio education 

We’ve been helping refugees get access to electricityWorking with local suppliers BELECOM and BBOXX, we have offered affordable solar home systems to refugees across KigemeGiheme and Nyabiheke refugee campsThese systems allow refugee families to light their homes and power small appliances such as phones, radios and rechargeable torches. We’re harnessing the power of the sun to keep refugees safe, connected, informed and entertained through lockdown. 

It’s an initiative that’s been particularly vital for children and young people, who are now able to continue their studies at home until schools reopen in September. Students can use radios or radio-enabled phones to tune in to the country’s daily radio classes. Broadcasts take place from 8.30am until 2pm daily on Radio Rwanda, these lessons are a vital link to the outside world as well as a valuable learning resource. 

Families have told us that, as well as providing learning and keeping loneliness at bay, being able to listen to the radio has helped them encourage their children to stay at home. Something that’s vital in preventing the spread of coronavirus 

Without electricity, when the sun sets at 6pm, there was nothing to do in the camp but try to sleep. Now families are spending their long evenings gathered around the radio, listening to the news, music and dramas.  


Partnerships powering change  

Working in partnership with UNHCR and supported by the IKEA Foundation, our Renewable Energy for Refugees project is working with both refugees and their host communities. We’re helping them access finance, training, technology and expertise, as well as renewable energy. It’s powering homes, schools, health clinics and businesses, enabling refugees to flourish and move from reliance on aid to economic independence. 

Find out more about our work with refugees.