According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees by the end of May 2017, Uganda was home to 1,233,966 refugees, originating from South Sudan (947,427), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (204,413), Burundi (34,241), Somalia (25,321), Rwanda (13,907), Eritrea (4,310), Sudan (2,549) and Ethiopia (1,798). Still, by the end of 2016, Uganda had the fifth-largest refugee population after Turkey (2.9 million), Pakistan (1.4 million), Lebanon (1million) and Islamic Republic of Iran (979,400).
When Esteeri Kabonero got back to Uganda after being raised in the United States and working in Rwanda, her focus was on energy access for underserved communities. She did not realize how badly refugees, especially from South Sudan had been living. “Headlines throughout the world had been talking about how Bidi Bidi refugee settlement, one of the largest settlement in the world located in northern Uganda, was at a breaking point.” Esteeri says. Bidi Bidi refugee settlement is home to thousands of refugees with 64% being children under 18 and 86% women and children benefiting from Uganda’s open refugee receiving policy that has seen her become one of the leading countries in the world with a high number of refugees.
“Even when Uganda is one of the most hospitable countries for refugees, we do not have enough resources to provide to them. Families in Bidi Bidi for example live in huts or UNCHR tents and many are living in darkness, school children, that found a little bit of home in school, can’t study, hospitals are left in darkness. Thus, this is where I knew we wanted to start.” Esteeri explains.
This led to the founding of Powah, a last mile distribution and community development company with a mission to provide access to products and services that will better energy, education, health, and entrepreneurial activities in refugee settlements in Uganda focusing on Bidi Bidi. “We went to Bidi Bidi Refugee settlement to understand how refugees live. I had told people I wanted to help the refugee crisis in northern Uganda, but how could I help if I had never been there. I think sometimes we hear about the crisis but do not understand it. After visiting and seeing poor energy connection we came up with the PowahAll campaign.” She says.
The social enterprise is providing solar lights to school children in Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement, one the largest settlement in the world. This is being done through raising funds via crowdfunding and a social media campaign (using the hashtag #PowahAll). Powah is a last mile distribution and community development company with a mission to provide access to education, health, and clean energy resources in the communities in which it serves. Powah has launched a campaign dubbed 'PowahAll' with an aim to provide clean energy access in underserved communities. Our first 'PowahAll' community is Bidi Bidi Refugee settlement in northern Uganda. Bidi Bidi sees close to 300,000 refugees that have fled war from South Sudan. Of those 300,000 refugees, 64% are children under the age of 18 years of age, living in spaces without any forms of power.
The lack of basic lighting infrastructure has led to slower education absorption, security issues, dangerous animal bites, eye strain and smoke inhalation, and rapid deforestation. Our goal at Powah is to eradicate harmful alternatives for energy and solve the issues dealt when power is inaccessible.
Thus, we have set a pilot goal to provide 1000 solar lights for school children in Bidi Bidi Refugee settlement. In order to do this, we need the assistance of individuals, companies, and government to change the course of these preventable problems. At just UGX 30000 or $8 you can provide a light in someone's life today, provide any amount and help us grow Powah's vision. Our distributed solar lights are approved Lighting Global and Power Africa solar lights, that are not only clean energy but brighter than the alternative, kerosene. Further, we have also partnered with UNHCR Uganda to monitor and evaluate the impact made from those 1000 lights, giving needed research into the need for solar energy for communities. You can read more about us on This is Uganda
Please join us and Powah All!