Image source: SolarAid
Just over three weeks ago, Cyclone Idai struck Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and caused extreme rainfall, flooding and high winds in Malawi. With more than 700 people dead and hundreds of thousands left homeless in these regions, the destruction witnessed in the aftermath of this natural disaster has been devasting.
Relief camps set up in old buildings and tents across the three countries have been bringing temporary relief to the displaced. However, when lives are thrown into chaos by natural disasters, basic needs are snatched away – one of which is access to safe and reliable energy.
While many NGOs and local aid organizations power their relief camps with the help of battery-operated lights and fossil fuel-run generators, the route to accessing resources to keep the flow of energy constant is not an easy one. A couple of GOGLA members displayed the benefits of renewable energy and off-grid solar in such situations, as they joined relief work in Zimbabwe and Malawi.
Seeing the need for immediate lighting within a number of relief camps, SolarWorks!, Zonful Energy and SolarAid launched into action to meet this need locally in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi respectively. All three companies, who ordinarily do not partake in emergency response, provided local NGOs and aid agencies with solar lights and solar home systems to help light up their camps.
Located in Mozambique, SolarWorks! experienced loss close to home with around 35 team members losing their homes. Their effort to provide relief started with offering temporary shelter to these team members and their immediate families within their offices. SolarWorks! also partnered with GIZ, Save the Children, Omnivoltaic and EDP Renewables to supply solar home systems to relief camps and shelters across the country.
SolarAid, on the other hand, decided to join relief efforts in Southern Malawi after they heard about the devastation in the area from their social enterprise, SunnyMoney’s staff, and sales agents. In collaboration with local authorities and the Malawi Red Cross, a distribution plan for solar lights and solar home systems was developed.
Solar home systems: Accessible and reliable sources of energy
Emphasizing the need for reliable light in the aftermath of a disaster, Brave Mhonie, who leads SunnyMoney in Malawi, said that relief camps are temporary. In Malawi, despite the passing of Cyclone Idai, the region still experienced heavy rainfall which often forced people to pack their belongings and move in the middle of the night. Situations like these cause panic and can be dangerous without proper lighting.
“Solar lights are portable…these products are often waterproof, which makes them more resilient,” said William Ponela, Founder and CEO of Zonful Energy, as he listed out the benefits that off-grid solar can bring to disaster relief efforts. He further added that solar home systems are easy to install, which makes them a versatile tool for emergency response.
In Mozambique, Thomas de Wijn, Operations Director at SolarWorks! said that since the organization’s local capacity was limited, they were working with members of GIZ and Save the Children to help install solar home systems during the disaster relief period.
Image source: SolarAid