A message from Lennart Hernander, LWF/DWS Country Representative, Kenya-Djibouti
(Photos – LWF Kenya)
As you all know, the drought in the Horn of Africa is now rapidly worsening an already bad situation. Hundreds of people leave Somalia every day, many of them walk to the biggest cluster of refugee camps in the world today, Dadaab in Eastern Kenya. The refugee population in Dadaab has grown by 85 per cent in just three years, putting immense pressure on humanitarian response, environment and straining host community and refugee relations. When Dadaab first opened two decades ago, a family of five lived on a plot of land that was about the same area as a small house.
Since August 2008, UNHCR had to put second families in each of those plots of land. And then third families. Now we are at the state where we have more than 42,000 of the newly arrived refugees that are actually outside the camp boundaries because there is nowhere to fit them inside. And this number is growing. Apart from not being able to access services, the new refugees, that are technically illegally settled outside the camp boundaries, cannot be guaranteed protection and the areas are also prone to floods. Presently about 1,300 people arrive at Dadaab from Somalia daily, with no place available in the camps they end up outside in what is known as illegal settlements. It was when the GoK tried to demolish such settlements that riots broke out last week, and at least two refugees were killed.
The new arrivals that we see now are often very tired and exhausted, having travelled very far. Sometimes from as far as the Somali capital Mogadishu, in some cases on foot over 1,000km. On average 20 – 30 children die of malnutrition every month, with the malnutrition rates among new arrivals reaching 30 – 40 % (Global Acute Malnutrition, GAM, rate among new arrivals according to Save the Children).
The UN OCHA Global Food Security Update (July 2011) describes the situation in the Horn of Africa as “the most severe food security emergency in the world today”. According to FEWSNET, the current humanitarian response is “inadequate to prevent a further deterioration”. According to WFP, at least 8.8 million people in Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are affected by food insecurity, of which WFP is currently assisting 5.6 million. The levels of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in this area, particularly among children, are also of great concern (4 – 9.5 percent).
The LWF/DWS Kenya-Djibouti program is working in Kakuma, Dadaab and Djibouti. In Dadaab, where the situation is most difficult now, we are working together with other implementing partners (UNHCR and partners like CARE, OXFAM, NRC, MSF and others). It is at the moment not allowed to plan more sites for refugees, as the Government of Kenya (GoK) and the host community does not allow site planning and preparation. We are trying to influence the GoK to allow the almost finalized site (called “IFO Extension” or “IFO 2”) to be opened, and also to allow planning and providing of shelter for new arrivals outside the existing camps. LWF/DWS has been asked by UNHCR to undertake site planning, establish refugee leadership structures and train refugee peace and security teams for the new arrivals. Due to the deteriorating security situation and the refusal of GoK and the host community, this has not been possible. Also e.g. some latrines that were constructed, by NRC, outside the designated camps were demolished and destroyed by members of the host community.
Today, July 6th, LWF/DWS are in discussions with other partners in Dadaab to support the new arrivals in different ways (especially with Non Food Items and material for temporary shelter). We are also trying to find ways to support the refugees along the way from Somalia to Dadaab, as there are many of them who do not make it all the way.
As you can imagine, the work is very intense, the situation is difficult and our staffs are working around the clock. We are already doing Camp Management, Primary Education (in one camp), Camp Peace and Security and many other things in the existing camps – already hosting about 370,000 refugees.
This is a short update, to inform you about the current situation and the ongoing work. We will come back to you in the near future, one way or another, asking for your support to the people leaving Somalia now.
Thank you for your commitment,
With kind regards
PO Box 408 70 – Nairobi