No Paraffin! Campaign
Based on an increasing accumulation of evidence of the impact of paraffin, the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), in collaboration with the University of South Africa (UNISA) Institute for Social and Health Sciences (ISHS), the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and North-West University (NWU) launched the No Paraffin! Campaign, through a three-part series of national roundtable discussions that were held on 18, 25 February and 4 March 2021.
The Campaign was initiated through deliberations between key decision-makers, civil society activists, industry and worker union interests, and local and international experts, that deliberated on transformative energy solutions for the under-resourced communities, as well as government strategies for universal and safe energy access for all.
Illuminating paraffin is the primary cooking fuel for approximately 3.6% of South African households (600 156 ≈ 2 million people), with concentrations in impoverished communities. This fuel is often burnt in poorly made stoves that are prone to malfunctions and associated with fires, burns and poisonings. However, the fuel continues to be used as it is widely available in neighbourhood outlets, is easily decanted and perceived as affordable, and thus often the only available option for many. The paraffin problem is especially manifested in urban informal settlements that are the site of glaring socio-economic inequalities, manifested through limited access to safe energy services, inferior home structures and high levels of household congestion. Every year South Africa’s emergency services respond to over 5000 shack fires that leave a trail of destruction and destitution across settlements. Survivors of these tragedies and related injuries may be scarred with long term physical, psychological, socio-economic and occupational consequences. The economic impact is huge, with significant resources spent in treatment, long-term care of disabilities and replacement of razed structures.
The national roundtable discussions sought to evaluate information and evidence needed for the national policies and strategies to inform the energy transition; explore the strategies that may be implemented to deal with economic, workforce and other consequences of the transition; indicate specific policy support that may be required to manage the transition from paraffin; and foster the building of what is intended to develop into broad-based civil society-science-policy advocacy. It is envisaged that the Campaign extend beyond the initial seminar series, as a multi-stakeholder process that will seek to mobilise scientists, policy makers, civil society and communities in support of the No Paraffin! Campaign.