by Lennart Hernander, LWF Country Representative, Kenya/Djibouti program
In the wider perspective;
There are currently an estimated 11.6 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa (here defined as Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia). The population in need of assistance inside Somalia is estimated at 3.7 million, out of which 2.8 million reside in southern Somalia. Refugee influxes from Somalia into Kenya and Ethiopia continue at a rate of around 3,500 per day in total, with slightly less than half of them being received in Dadaab. Around 1,330 per day on average are received in Dadaab (statistics for the period 1 – 20 July). It is important to note the difference between received and registered. The registration process is still slow – but improvements have been made.
The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) moving from the south-central part of Somalia has decreased according to reports from sources inside Somalia. The reasons for this may include the arrival of Islamic NGOs that are distributing relief aid in some of the affected areas (in Bay and Bakool). In addition, some International NGOs have started distributing food to drought-affected IDPs in the south of Somalia and population movements have been reported to be moving towards the surrounding towns, such as Baidoa, Wajid, Berdale, Qasaxdhere and Bardera. Another reason can be that most of those who could afford or still had strength enough to move have already done so. Those that now remain may not have the economic means or the strength to move.
In Dadaab, there is now (July 24) an overall registered population of 388,804 refugees that resides in or around the three old camps (Dagahaley, Hagadera and Ifo I). These were originally designed to accommodate a combined total of 90,000 refugees. As at July 24, there were also just above 28,000 refugees residing outside the camps awaiting registration. The total official number is therefore now above 400,000 refugees.
The Department for Refugee Affairs (DRA) has increased registration personnel and equipment. The backlog in registration is still there, and as mentioned above about 28,000 refugees wait for registration. The DRA and UNHCR strategy is that with the additional personnel and equipment, the backlog should have been cleared by the 21 of August. With effect from 22 August, all received new arrivals shall be registered on the day they arrive. At the moment WFP and UNHCR are providing food to people who have been recognized as received but have not yet been registered.
There are plans to install strategic water points along the route between the Somali border and Dadaab, to help refugees along the way. It is still a bit unclear, but has been discussed after a UNHCR-led trip to Liboi near the Somali. One conclusion from the trip was that refugees avoid the official border crossings, as the border is officially closed and they fear being stopped at the border and not allowed to enter Kenya.
UNICEF, the Kenya Ministry of Health and WHO will on 1 August launch a vaccination campaign for children living in host communities around the Dadaab refugee camps. This campaign will target just above 200,000 children under the age 5 with measles and polio vaccines, together with Vitamin A and de-worming tablets.
Following an al-Shabaab announcement in early July to allow humanitarian access to areas under its control in southern Somalia, agencies have been making initial contacts and increasing response where programs were already underway. This week al-Shabaab however repeated its previous position, to ban aid in areas under its control. The situation is unclear, even if UNICEF did manage to provide aid in one operation recently.
For the LWF/DWS;
We have continued managing and coordinating activities at the reception centers. We have also done the site planning for two new camps, Kambi Oos and Ifo extension (note that is Ifo III, it does not refer to the already existing – but empty – Ifo II camp). Tent pitching has also been done in the areas were refugees will now be settled. Water trucking is going on, and will increase.
LWF continues to carry out mass information and awareness campaigns targeting all new arrivals. They receive general information, including information on the rights as refugees. There has been some instances of persons in the host community “selling” plots to new refugees, for payment in form of materials, labor or money. (We have not yet heard of cases of “selling” plots for sexual favors though this is not unlikely to happen). One of the messages LWF brings is therefore “don’t pay”, all services are free in the camps and e.g. plots cannot be sold.
Settling of registered new arrivals living in the camp peripheries into camp extension areas in Ifo 3 and Kambi Oos have begun. There are still mixed signals from the Kenyan Government over the settling refugees into the existing Ifo 2 camp. All agencies have adopted a sort of ‘wait and see’ approach to this, but if success is realized in settling people to ‘Ifo 3’ and Kambi Oos in the coming week, Ifo 2 might follow automatically. But again nobody is sure yet!
There are many new agencies coming in to support in the emergency. There is therefore a lot of re-organization and lobbying in the background going on. It has been agreed that LWF will retain its current roles/responsibilities in Camp Management, Camp Peace and Security, to some extent in Shelter (tents) and in Infrastructure Improvement. LWF will also take responsibility for Education (incl. emergency education) in at least one new camp. Many other activities are also going on!
Coordination is an extremely important aspect of the work, and time consuming. This is to make sure that all the important things are done by someone – not only the things that are “popular” and easy to communicate and show to supporters. Coordination also ensures that we don’t duplicate services, and that all refugees are reached with similar support etcetera. Therefore, and this is important to understand, neither LWF nor any other agency can provide just any kind of support that there seems to be a need for. E.g. there is an agreement that only WFP will provide food. Equally important is to understand that some things are less immediately understood as being important in a situation like this, but must still be done (like taking care of waste and rubbish, organize graveyards, clear roads and so on).
It is also important to underscore that when we look at an individual agency, e.g. the LWF, we may wonder why some obviously important support is not provided for. This is usually because it is provided by someone else. In the camps, the coordination works rather well most of the time, and agencies also support each other. Dadaab was a huge refugee operation already before the current crisis, and communication, coordination, etcetera has been pretty well established. These systems are also challenged now, with so many new arrivals – and all the previous duties still needed to be done. LWF is strongly committed to the coordination and the spirit of working together as partners with all other agencies.
At last, though this is an update on Dadaab and Somalia, I want to highlight that there are problems also in Kenya, with food shortage and drought in many places. The malnutrition rates among children in rural Kenya has increased dramatically, in some areas the increase in malnutrition is more than 60%. The highest GAM rate (global acute malnutrition) in Kenya is in Turkana, where LWF is also working with the Kakuma refugee camp and with the host community. Even if the attention is now on Somalia, we must also remember other areas of Kenya.
There is also an influx of Somali refugees to Djibouti, though much less than into Kenya and Ethiopia. LWF is also working in the refugee camp in Djibouti, and this work is also important.
Again I want thank all of you for all support, thoughts, prayers, encouragement in different ways! We are very happy and very proud to receive all this support, commitment, and personal dedication and we do feel very encouraged and strengthened in our work.
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