Brightening the world’s first solar-powered refugee camp

For two-and-a-half years, the thousands of Syrian refugees living in Azraq refugee camp in Jordan had no electricity. When the sun set—as early as 5 p.m. in winter — children couldn’t play outside or study, parents couldn’t work, and community life came to a grinding halt. Food spoiled quickly in the scorching summer heat, and families spent countless hours making daily trips to the market or washing clothes by hand.

In 2017, though, the camp lit up. That is when UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, flipped the switch on a solar farm built with funding from our Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign. Now half the camp’s shelters are solar powered but eventually the whole camp should be, which will help 36,000 people rediscover their own powers — such as the power to learn, the power to earn, and the power to connect with the outside world.

Families now keep food fresh in refrigerators instead of walking kilometres to the market every day. They can cool down by sitting in front of a fan or drinking cold water from their refrigerator. Washing machines save parents — particularly mothers — countless hours that they can devote to playing, teaching or earning an income. Schoolchildren’s educations no longer end when daylight does. Children can play outside under solar lamps and feel safer walking to the toilets at the end of each street.

The solar farm signals a paradigm shift in how the humanitarian sector supports displaced populations. UNHCR Jordan will save millions of dollars, while reducing carbon emissions and improving living conditions for some of the world’s most vulnerable children and families. Most importantly for these families, community life has blossomed in this desert.

Read more about the solar farm

Read IWitness blogs about Brighter Lives projects

Brighter, healthier childhoods in Burkina Faso

Funding from our Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign is changing the lives of Malian refugees living in Burkina Faso. Our partner UNHCR has delivered solar lanterns to schoolchildren and is installing streetlights and solar systems for health centres. UNHCR is also supporting refugee families to set up small, sustainable dairy businesses, helping parents earn an income and improve their children’s health and nutrition.

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