Solar power is improving the lives of millions of refugees

Solar energy has saved the lives of Rabab’s children on more than one occasion. Mahmoud, 15, and Kamal, 11, are asthmatic and need to use their nebulisers daily to avoid choking episodes that could lead to death. Their nebuliser requires electricity.


“[Having access to electricity] is very important for us,” explains Rabab Gharib Khabas, 41, her face covered by a niqab. She lives in one of the 100 small, prefabricated cement brick houses of the Rahmet village settlement, home to 800 internally displaced Syrian refugees.


Rabab, known in the settlement as the widow of the martyr Abdo Mahmoud Al-Dairi, from the al-Bayada neighbourhood of Homs, fled her city with her children to escape the bombardments and “beatings” she suffered at the hands of Bashar al-Assad’s regime militias. “We came to take refuge in the liberated [opposition] areas, praise God. When we came here to the houses, they provided us with solar energy for lighting, and for running the fridge and the washing machine,” she explains.


The energy captured by the panels on her rooftop also saves money for Rabab, a mother with no income, as the gas cylinders she would otherwise use to heat in winter cost around 400 Turkish lira (the official currency in opposition-controlled Syria, equivalent to about €12), “which widows can’t afford every month”.


Most of the close to a million people who have been internally displaced by Syria’s ongoing civil war have gathered in the Idlib Governorate, located in the country’s north-west, on the border with Turkey. A bird’s eye view over Rahmet reveals the hundred or so small yellow houses, perfectly arranged amidst rolling hills of olive trees. The rooftop of every house has a water tank and multiple solar panels. This pilot settlement has a health centre, a school, a playground and a mosque.