Posts

Impact of Poverty on Coping with Jacobabad’s Heatwave
The city of Jacobabad in Pakistan is currently experiencing a heatwave that is “hotter than the human body can handle,” per Ben Farmer in The Telegraph on June 28, 2021. The temperatures can reach up to 52 degrees Celsius, or nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit. When measured using “wet bulb” techniques, which measure not just heat but humidity, Jacobabad is one of only two places in the world that has crossed a point where humans cannot sweat enough to cool themselves down. Put another way, Jacobabad’s heatwave is something that the human body literally cannot withstand.

Many residents of the city cannot afford air conditioning, and some must venture outside, despite the dangers, because their jobs demand it. Even those who can afford air conditioning are in danger due to frequent power cuts. This means that the impact of poverty on coping with Jacobabad’s heatwave can be life-threatening; the hospitals in the city can fill up with heat-stroke victims during the summer. “People are aware that the heat is getting up and up, but they are poor people. They can’t go anywhere, they can’t leave their places,” Zahid Hussain, a market trader, stated.

New Ways of Keeping Cool

Because of how expensive energy is for many residents, people are finding new ways of keeping cool. For example, roadside stalls sell ice in “10p chunks.” The chunks have been mass-produced in factories across Pakistan; for years as the heat in Jacobabad has continued to rise, so too does the need to escape it. Many markets also sell hand fans, which are far cheaper to produce and buy compared to electric fans.

Hospitals and Energy Access – Solutions

USAID has been active in the city for years, building the Jacobabad Institute of Medical Sciences (JIMS) to provide better medical care. Due to a large number of heatstroke victims, new hospital beds serve as essential assets to the city. The USAID effort also seeks to update infrastructure, building and repairing many health care facilities.

Many organizations are working to combat energy poverty. For example, Sustainable Energy for All (SEForAll) is an organization that works with the United Nations, as well as private companies, to spread energy access to poorer countries. Initiatives address the impact of increasing heat and its possible deadly effects, with SEForAll publishing a story on the Pakistani city of Karachi, which faced similar problems to Jacobabad earlier in 2021. Jacobabad’s heatwave was not a specific focus of the organization; however, by campaigning and advocating for causes similar to it, and trying to bring energy access to cities like it, SEForAll is improving the possibility that Jacobabad’s problems may receive attention.

A New Focus

At the same time, Ben Farmer, when contacted, said there was, to his knowledge, no NGO activity in the city specifically to combat the impact of poverty on coping with Jacobabad’s heatwave. Despite the ingenuity shown by the city’s residents in keeping cool, the problem would still be able to greatly reduce due to foreign aid.

The lack of meaningful aid suggests an unnecessary vacuum in Jacobabad that organizations can fill. While NGO efforts are meaningful, it is key to note that the city’s efforts prioritize citizens and their health. As Jacobabad faces its heat-related challenges head-on, efforts to help must prioritize the people to build on current work toward a safer future.

– Augustus Bambridge-Sutton
Photo: Flickr

Power to Africa
In the digital age, access to the Internet has become a barrier to entry for much of society. Nowhere is this lack of access more prevalent than in Africa. Roughly two out of three Africans lack access to electricity, let alone the Internet. To address this staggering disparity in privilege in an age that the widespread use of electricity characterizes, several NGOs are working to bring power to Africa through a combination of innovative technology and locally-led distribution campaigns.

The Honnold Foundation

Founded by renowned rock climber Alex Honnold, The Honnold Foundation aims to promote equitable access to power worldwide. While the organization does work both domestically and abroad, many of its projects in Africa have focused on the distribution of solar lanterns and pay-as-you-go energy programs. These programs provide power to remote, off-grid communities. Through generous grants The Honnold Foundation has awarded to organizations such as The Solar Energy Foundation and SolarAid, the Honnold Foundation has provided clean, renewable energy sources to 12.3 million people. This has not only lit up a large swath of Africa but also eliminated the need for expensive and environmentally-harmful alternatives such as kerosene lamps. Additionally, the Foundation has provided solar power to 165 Ethiopian schools and 35 health centers, as well as more than 2,000 households.

Sustainable Energy for All

Sustainable Energy for All, or SEforAll, is an independent international organization. In partnership with the United Nations, it works to promote access to sustainable energy across the world. In Africa, SeforAll’s “Electricity for All in Africa” program is using a top-down strategy to alleviate regional energy poverty. SEforAll’s focus is threefold: first, it advocates for policy reform centered on the promotion of sustainable energy access for all, in conjunction with meeting sustainable development goals. The organization also utilizes a neutral platform to promote investment in sustainable energy in Africa. In addition, it accelerates the market for private sustainable energy companies and facilitates communication between companies and the public sector. In Africa, 44 countries have joined SEforAll’s initiative, with drastic long-term improvement expected in nearly all of them as more companies buy into the clean energy industry and countries adopt policy reforms.

Africa ICT Right

Many organizations are pushing valuable initiatives to bring electricity to remote and impoverished African communities. However, NGOs tackling the disparity in Internet access are less common. Africa ICT Right (AIR), is a nonprofit addressing the lack of Information and Communication Technology – or ICT – in Ghana. Some of AIR’s programs include projects to equip schools with computer labs and STEM teachers, programs to offer technological tools and learning opportunities to high school girls and innovative technological reforms in rural medical centers to reduce infant and maternal mortality. Above all, AIR based its mission on the following idea: not only does it benefit less affluent communities to have access to these technological tools, but it also allows the inclusion of diverse voices from areas such as Ghana.

Power for All

Power for All is an NGO that has dedicated itself to bringing power to Africans in rural areas through decentralized renewable energy sources. Rather than prioritizing one form of renewable energy, Power for All strives to promote a combination of different strategies to tackle increasing overall energy efficiency and availability. In addition to this goal, Power for All lobbies governments to reduce taxes on renewable energy sources. Furthermore, it incentivizes investors and banks to earmark funds specifically for the promotion of sustainable power sources.

ACRA

The Milan-based NGO ACRA is also spreading the benefits of electricity throughout several African countries through a variety of sustainable solutions, including the construction of small hydroelectric plants in rural areas. Organizations in Tanzania applied this strategy to a high degree of success. Plants turned over to local leadership and paired with education initiatives in the locales they power. What is particularly remarkable about ACRA’s programs is that it tailors them to the region in which they implement them. For example, ACRA’s hydropower programs in Tanzania work well in that region. However, in Senegal, ACRA has seen an even greater potential for the installation of solar panels to power remote communities.

The Push to Bring Power to Africa

The actions and goals of these NGOs point to a greater global appreciation for the value of integrating Africa. The work of these organizations will likely prove invaluable in bringing power to Africa. By incorporating Africans into the global economy, they better global communication networks with new and diverse perspectives.

Kieran Hadley
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Energy
Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) initiative in 2011 with three goals in mind.

He aimed to secure universal access to energy services, to double the global improvement rate in energy efficiency and to double the amount of renewable energy used globally.

Through doing so, he hoped to work toward the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 7. This goal aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. The initiative focuses largely on bringing together groups from different sectors to collaborate on a common goal.  

Sustainable Energy for All Forum

With partners from different governments, the private sector and civil society, SEforAll is able to use a multi-pronged approach to tackle the issue of sustainable energy access.

Partners of the program come together each year at a Sustainable Energy for All Forum, where attendees from over 80 countries discuss the progress that has been made and what still needs to be done.

Partners can present their work for the previous year and announce plans for the next one. Different organizations have the opportunity to meet together and potentially collaborate on new projects.

They give evidence and ideas in various working sessions that cover topics such as maximizing the impact of energy, city-level action, gender equality in sustainable energy and challenges that countries are facing.

This information ultimately helps countries who have aligned with SEforAll fulfill their pledges to improve sustainable energy access. After each forum, numerous follow-up meetings and events are scheduled.

Examples of these events are People-Centered Accelerator, Sustainable Energy in Somalia and other. Partners come together to apply the information from the forum to their individual projects.

Forum Topics

While the forum discusses a variety of issues, SEforALL also provides targeted accelerators with specific topics. Participants discuss energy efficiency in terms of appliances, building efficiency, district energy, among other topics.

These meetings are also focused on action, so participants can talk about policies, business models and solutions.

Many initiatives have come out of these accelerators, including the U.N.-coordinated District Energy in Cities Initiative. It works toward increasing the adoption and funding of district energy, a sustainable way of heating and cooling buildings.

Other Sustainable Energy for All Projects

SEforAll also works towards projects of its own, including improved data collection. They created a website with “heat maps” that tracks which countries are making progress and which are not.

They use collected data on clean cooking, electricity access, energy efficiency and renewable energy to identify trends in different countries. With this information, countries can evaluate the success of their policies and SEforAll can target countries that need more progress.

To further evaluate the progress of different countries, SEforAll and The World Bank Group launched Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy  (RISE), a set of indicators used to thoroughly assess each country and the manners in which they address sustainable energy access. It covers 111 countries, which roughly makes around 96 percent of the global population.

It categorizes each country into three zones, according to how much progress they are making. Each country is also given scores based on their performance in energy access, energy efficiency and renewable energy, based on specific indicators in each of the categories.

Sustainable Energy for All ultimately encourages countries to take action towards improving sustainable energy access. It provides them with evaluations of how well their current policies and efforts are working and information on how they can improve their work.

Through collaborations with other groups from different sectors, countries are given the tools to make progress and to develop in the right way.

– Casey Geier

Photo: Flickr