ToughStuff turns on the light in refugee camp

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 40,000 refugees that made their way to the camp of Melkadida , Dolloa Ado, fleeing the Somali conflict and the worst famine to hit East Africa in 20 years, lack food, water, proper shelter and light. ToughStuff, a social enterprise working to bring affordable energy products to people without access to electricity, has provided 6,000 solar panels and kits to 60% of the families in this camp at the Somali/Ethiopian border and will equip the remaining 40% by the end of February.

While scarcity of food, education and medical aid are familiar and well documented aspects of humanitarian crises, emergency responses do not usually address the lack of light in refugee camps.

In Melkadida, the sun goes down at 6pm, after which straightforward tasks become nearly impossible; children cannot study, adults cannot cook. Life stops. Other tasks – like collecting firewood or venturing to the toilet – become outright dangerous. More menacingly, in Melkadida, over half the households are made up of only women and children, who are incredibly vulnerable in total darkness.

Recognizing the impact energy, and particularly light, can have on people’s lives, German NGO Humedica asked ToughStuff to visit Dollo Ado, in the Somali region of Ethiopia, late last year. Twenty refugees were selected to distribute lamps around the camp, each one trained in how to use the products and how to demonstrate them to others, and paid to do so. Access to light once the sun has gone down means more time for these men, women and children to work, study, do chores, or meet up. It alsocontributes to increased safety and security.

Melkadida is the biggest refugee camp in the Dollo Ado region, which hostsa total of 135,000 refugees.

Two Tough Stuff product packages have passed Lighting Africa’s minimum quality standards and performance targets. More information about these products is available at

ToughStuff provides portable solar power for the developing world and for humanitarian crises. 1.4 billion people live without access to electricity, relying on expensive, unsafe and polluting alternatives. They supply affordable products and training for high-quality solar panels to charge lights, radios and mobile phones. These tools help communities cope with emergencies, and low-income people to not just save money but make money.

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