Tree planting project (c) UNHCR T. Maurer Rwanda 2012
© UNHCR T. Maurer Rwanda 2012

What is SAFE?

Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) is a cross-sectoral issue that focuses on ensuring access to fuel and energy for cooking, heating, lighting, and powering for crisis-affected populations. 

More than a third of the world's population relies on traditional fuels—wood, coal, animal dung, and agricultural waste—for their energy needs, including cooking their meals, heating their homes, and lighting their communities. The challenges they face in accessing clean energy are numerous, often dangerous, and incredibly unsustainable, particularly during complex emergencies and protracted crises.

Safe and sustainable access to energy is being increasingly recognized as a human right—essential for the safety, well-being, and productivity of the people the humanitarian community serves. It is also essential for social and economic development, offering opportunities for improved lives and economic progress.

Because of the cross-cutting nature of energy use and access, SAFE seeks to combine improved technologies, alternative fuels, and livelihood and environmental activities to:

  • Provide emergency support for cooking, lighting, heating, and powering needs to ensure the safety and well-being of displaced people, especially women and girls who are typically the most vulnerable during crises;
  • Help to shift communities away from dangerous and destructive dependence on woodfuel and towards healthier and more sustainable options;
  • Reduce exposure to risk of gender-based violence and other threats faced primarily by women and girls during firewood collection and while navigating communal areas of the camp (e.g. latrines) at night; and
  • Reduce the negative health impacts of household air pollution from burning solid fuels in enclosed spaces for cooking, lighting, and/or heating purposes.
  • Mitigate environmental degradation through agroforestry activities and reduced biomass consumption, contributing to disaster risk reduction and long-term food security.