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Portable solar chargers bringing light to Syrian refugees

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For many of the 7 million Syrians who have fled their homes amid civil war, having access to clean and reliable electricity in refugee camps is not guaranteed. Lack of electricity is both a safety issue and makes communication nearly impossible. In an effort to provide this basic level of security, the organization WakaWaka has partnered with the International Rescue Committee to provide portable solar-powered light and chargers to Syrian refugees.

Last summer I had the opportunity to play with a WakaWaka light. It’s a lightweight, durable yellow brick with solar PV cells on one face. You leave it in the sun for about 8 hours and it has enough juice to charge a mobile phone or provide over 100 hours of light through LEDs. It has a convenient cutout that lets it sit on soda bottles to provide light for a room, or allowing it to be hung from a ceiling.

The WakaWakas are distributed on a buy-one-get-one (BOGO) model, meaning that if you or I buy one, someone around the world in need will receive one. The BOGO model differs from other practices of distributing solar like pay-as-you-go, which is being used throughout Africa. Through the Solar For Syria campaign, over 26,000 of the light/chargers were distributed last year to refugees, and the group plans to distribute more this year.

Perviously, WakaWaka and International Rescue Committee partnered up to provide solar units to survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

David Wogan About the Author: An engineer and policy researcher who writes about energy, technology, and policy - and everything in between. Based in Austin, Texas. Comments? Follow on Twitter @davidwogan.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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