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In Somalia, fuel-efficient stoves prevent sexual violence and generate income for vulnerable families

One year ago, on 20 July 2011, the United Nations declared famine in two regions of southern Somalia, the flashpoint in a humanitarian crisis gripping the Horn of Africa. After an outpouring of international support, the famine ended in February 2012, and countless lives across the region were saved. But 8 million people in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya remain in need of humanitarian assistance, and UNICEF’s relief efforts must continue.

By Silje M. Heitmann

MOGADISHU, Somalia, 25 July 2012 – Girls and women in Mogadishu say that they are at greatest risk of sexual violence while they are collecting firewood. Children between ages 5 and 14 are at especially high risk, as they are the age group mostly assigned to this task.

UNICEF correspodent Susannah Price reports on fuel-efficient stoves that will bring a wave of change for Somailan women and girls displaced by last year's famine.  Watch in RealPlayer


“There are not alternatives for me. I must go to the bush where they are hidden – the militias – to collect firewood as I have to cook three times a day for my brothers and father,” said a 13-year-old girl in Mogadishu. “I will never allow my brothers to collect wood, because they can be killed. Instead, I can just be raped.”

To reduce the need for firewood, UNICEF Somalia and partners are supporting two projects providing fuel-efficient stoves to displaced girls and women throughout Mogadishu. These projects will both reduce girls’ vulnerability to assault and free up their time, enabling them to return to school.

Income for vulnerable families

The stoves use waste products such as maize husks as an energy source, reducing or eliminating the need to collect firewood. More than 16,000 stoves are being distributed in Mogadishu to vulnerable families and to families with more than eight children in their care.

Everyday Halima Abdikadir, a mother of four, walks two km to fetch firewood on the outskirts of Mogadishu, which puts her at risk being getting attacked.

UNICEF designed these projects to protect children, but they have had the added benefit of providing more than 150 families with an income as stove producers.

Anisa, a single mother of three, lives in the Siliga displacement camp. She now earns an income as a stove producer. “It is unbelievable how scrap metals and some dirt soil can be used to produce a very fine piece of clay stove…. This has given me hope of making a decent livelihood in future,” she said. “My daughter and I will not be going to the bushes to collect firewood anymore. We don’t have to worry about the dangers of getting raped or sexually molested.”

Amina, a mother of seven, also participated in a stove-making workshop. She was taught how to make the clay pot portion of the stoves, and Abshir, a 26-year-old father of four, learned how to make the stoves’ metal jacket. The workshops also taught them how to run their businesses.

UNICEF and its partners hope that a new project providing fuel-efficient stoves to displaced families will reduce or eliminate the need to collect firewood.

“I thought it was going to be just like any other workshop where we were to be trained in how to do calculations, but now my thinking has broadened, and it will help me expand my business initiative in the future,” said Abshir.

Skills for a lifetime

“Before this training I was just a casual labourer at various construction sites. I sometimes used to work for more than ten hours a day and make less than five dollars. Some days I did not get any casual employment and that meant my family had nothing to eat for that day,” said Abdi Abdulla, a father of two who has benefited from the training programmes. “With this training, my expectation in life has been rekindled… Through this training, I got an opportunity of getting lifetime skills that will help me raise my family comfortably without having to worry about what they will eat for the day.”



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