Shaping the future: Our strategy for research and innovation in humanitarian response.

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Principal Investigator: Stephen Luby, Stanford University


This mixed methods study in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh found a range of social, health, and environmental benefits were achieved by providing cooking fuel to Rohingya refugees.

Read the Snapshot

What did the study set out to achieve?

The study aimed to add to the limited evidence base on the adoption of liquified petroleum gas (LPG) and implementation of an LPG delivery system in a humanitarian context. It specifically aimed to investigate the health and environmental impacts of the distribution of LPG to replace firewood for cooking in Rohingya refugee camps. It also aimed to investigate the intervention’s cost-effectiveness and how the effectiveness of LPG distribution and uptake could be increased.

A cross-sectional study was conducted of communities that are and are not receiving free propane distribution. By studying the factors that influence household’s usage of propane and firewood, the research sought to better understand how these factors affect health, household economics, and the environment. Often these factors have particularly negative impacts on women and children.

Stephen Luby

Stanford University

Refugee camps are complex environments where we often have little hard data to guide best practices. This study will provide guidance on the consequences of transitioning from biomass to a cleaner cooking fuel. We look for it to affect future responses to humanitarian crises.

What were the key findings?

The LPG distribution programme was associated with high exclusive use of LPG. It also:

  •  replaced 4.3 kg of firewood/day with 0.34 kg of LPG/day, preventing 330,600 tons of firewood extraction and 407,000 tons of CO2 emissions;
  • increased spending on food (from $7.19/month to $8.55/month);
  • reduced air pollution, preventing 2,309 adult deaths and 385 child death over 5 years;
  • lowered the prevalence of female caregivers at risk of depression by 10.0%;
  • reduced the prevalence of burning of plastic as a cooking fuel from 40% burning 5+ days/week to 0%; and
  • reduced inter-group and domestic violence.

The programme cost $0.34-$0.47 per day per family. Since refugees needed to bring their cylinders to the depot to collect the LPG refill, targeting of resource appeared effective: very few LPG tanks were “lost” and needed to be replaced.

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What are the implications for humanitarian practitioners and policymakers?

Humanitarians can use the results of this study to help donors understand the multi-sectoral impact of their funding: not only does funding the provision of clean-cooking reduce respiratory illness and save lives, but it also improves food security and reduces refugee-host conflict and domestic violence.

Humanitarians could advance clean cooking for refugees by:

  • assessing sustainable clean fuel options for other humanitarian settings;
  • continuing to develop technologies and processes the increase the efficient use of cooking fuel;
  • developing international financing mechanisms; based on carbon credits or results-based tools to
    offset the cost of fuel provision, and;
  • considering incorporation of fuel provision into the mandate of the World Food Program (WFP).

Donors can draw on these study results to be reassured that their contributions to a clean cooking fuel programme provides a range of benefits well-targeted to refugee beneficiaries.

Related Resources

Policy Brief Energy, Refugees and IDPs

Human Health and Environmental Costs and Benefits of Liquefied Petroleum Gas vs. Firewood for Cooking in the Rohingya Refugee Camp, Bangladesh

Research Snapshot Energy, Refugees and IDPs

Research Snapshot: What are the impacts of providing cooking fuel in refugee camps?

Latest Updates

Project video featured in CUGH's annual video competition in partnership with the Pulitzer Center

Apr 2023

The project video is available on this page. View this and other featured Public Health videos.


Project blog

Sept 2020

As the study team prepare to resume fieldwork in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, they reflect on the value of multi-pronged data collection and strong collaborations to overcome unexpected changes to the situation in this project blog.

LPG distribution
Rohingya House
Rohingya House

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