Kebribeyah refugee camp


Last week, we spoke to five families about their experiences with the Dometic CleanCook stove and ethanol as a fuel alternative.

The women we spoke to arrived to Kebribeyah in Eastern Ethiopia 22 years ago, when they were little girls. The men who are a little bit older than them, tell us about a landscape covered with trees, and that they could hunt rabbit, antilope and other animals with machine guns (!).


Kebribeyah refugee camp was established in 1988 during the civil war in Somalia and is today surrounded by dry land, few trees and there is a water shortage that according to the women leave them with only three jerrycans of water to serve a family of 13 to 15 people for three weeks. The refugees are provided food rations from UNHCR/ARRA and exchange some of these (rice, spaghetti, beans) for milk, vegetables and meat. Due to the lack of water in the region, the vegetables are expensive as well, although grown by the state agro company.

In order to protect what is left of the vegetation and to kick start the use of alternative energies in Ethiopia, the government banned the use of firewood. In the Somali region and especially surrounding Kebribeyah, this has left the refugees in a difficult situation. The Gaia association has provided every family with an ethanol stove, but the ethanol production is not sufficient (one sixth of what is needed for cooking is provided) and the refugees are still forced to gather firewood in the camps. There are also other challenges, product specific and system specific, that the design project will approach. Beans and rice are difficult to cook on the Dometic stove, when there is not enough ethanol.


Every once in a while, a bus arrives and refugees are transported to the airport, happy to have received asylum in the US. ARRA (UNHCRs government counterpart in Ethiopia) infroms us that US is the currently the only country accepting refugees from the camps surrounding Jijiga in the Somali region. When we are there doing interviews, one of the women have received a letter of rejection from UNHCR, which she asks our interpreter to translate over and over, and her sadness is shining through.

When we ask what they would use their time for if they didn’t have to cook 4-6 hours a day, they say they would wash children clothes, or study. One of the women want to become a nurse and another one wants to make handicrafts.

Providing energy alternatives (they are also asking for solar lamps for studying) can at least improve their situation a bit.

Please follow the design project on


About Brita Fladvad Nielsen

I'm a Postdoctoral researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. My focus is on Smart Energy Communities in urban settings as well as design of energy-devices for emergency settings and design for humanitarian markets, especially for refugee camps in rural areas of Africa. I blog about my research approach Design Thinking on and about humanitarian design at . I am also a mother of a child who is deaf, and I blog about her language development on
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