Syrian refugees in Jordan's remote desert were connected to solar power today, making their community the world's first refugee camp to be powered by renewable energy.
The USd 4.5 million plant was funded by a foundation established by Ikea, the global home furnishings retailer. In the first phase, it will serve 20,000 of 35,000 people in Azraq camp.
The plant's capacity is to be more than doubled to provide power to all residents, for an eventual cost of USD 9.7 million, the U.N. Refugee agency said.
The investment in sustainable energy was yet another expression of the protracted nature of the Syrian refugee crisis.
Some 5 million Syrians have fled their homeland since conflict erupted there in 2011 and quickly turned into a brutal civil war.
Jordan hosts some 660,000 Syrian refugees, more than 80 percent in communities and the rest in three camps of which Azraq is the second-largest. A solar power plant is under construction in the largest camp, Zaatari, where residents only have intermittent electricity.
Azraq, run by the UN refugee agency, was set up in April 2014 as a cluster of several thousand prefab metal shacks. For the first two-and-a-half years, refugees only had solar lanterns, but no electricity, as they endured a harsh climate of scorching summers and cold winters.
In January 2017, 20,000 residents were hooked up to the electricity grid, with the remainder expected to be connected by the end of the year.
The solar plant which began operating today allows the refugee agency to save about USD 1.5 million a year, money that can now be spent on other aid.
Lighting up the camp provides a safer environment and allows children to study after dark, Kelly T. Clements, the agency's deputy high commissioner, said in a statement. "Above all, it allows all residents of the camps to lead more dignified lives.