Special Coverage: The grim situation at Dadaab

July 15th, 2009

The United Nations says it is attempting to expand a refugee camp in Kenya being overwhelmed by the never-ending arrival of Somali refugees. The Christian Science Monitor said Friday as 500 refugees arrive daily at the refugee camp in the town of Dadaab, U.N. officials are struggling to convince the government and local authorities in Kenya to allow the camp to expand.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres on the situation at Dadaab refugee camp

Special Coverage: Earning a living in Dadaab

July 14th, 2009

Increasing numbers of refugees are fleeing fighting in various parts of the world due to combatant conflicts and seeking refugee in neighboring countries that seem safer. The number of people uprooted due to war is increasing day by day and there seems to be no solution between factions advancing different views.

In the horn of Africa, most people who have taken refugee in neighboring countries have similar stories to tell.

Mohammed Affey is a prominent businessman in Mogadishu, Somalia before he fled with his family to Eastleigh in Nairobi, Kenya.

"We were in Mogadishu when the hell broke in May this year. At night we had heard many gunshots and bomb blasts. So we put our children in a truck that was ferrying goats to Moyale in Kenya and fled." Affey told Xinhua recently.

"We ran away in a hurry. We didn't bring any of our possessions with us," he explained.

On reaching Moyale, Affey and his family had boarded a bus to Easleigh in Nairobi, where they were to join some friends. He now runs a small Arabian coffee shop.

Eastleigh had once been a peaceful Nairobi suburb where lower class businessmen earned a living from their daily engagement. Now the estate is overpopulated due to the influx of Somalis from the war ravaged country and it has acquired a new name "Mogadishu ndogo".

Refugees are fleeing from Mogadishu as the UN-backed Somalia transitional government is launching a major offensive to push back rebel forces from Mogadishu and other major town. Such people end up at Kakuma refugee camp, in Kenya, while others sneak to Nairobi's Eastleigh estate.

At Kakuma and Dadaab refugees camp things have started taking a new dimension as some of this refugees what they thought was going to be a short stay as turned to be a new home for them and they have to adjust to this harsh living conditions because from the look of things they might be here for a long time .

The Dadaab camp complex which is the world's largest refugee camp was initial composed of tents but lately has seen permanent structures coming up the reason why same form of businesses has started flourishing from the little money some of this refugees get from friends and relatives abroad .

Those who have remained in camps in Somalia can hardly get aid since the warring parties do not want aid agencies to transport aid to those in need in the camps and have gone as far as attacking Red Cross vehicles ferrying aid to the affected areas.

"It is hunger and destitution that drove us from our country,"Abdullahi Abdi Dahir, 50, told Xinhua with a sigh of frustration in his voice at Eastleigh estate earlier this week. He fled Somalia with his wife and their five children, the youngest just 3months old. "All we need now is something to eat and a shelter forthe family."

Ali Dawood, a refugee in Kakuma told Xinhua that refugees should not be mistaken to be part of the combatants. "We are yearning for peace. We don't mind who wins the war so long as he can restore peace and rule of law. Then we will go back to our country, stay under his rule, and carry on with our lives," he said.

As for those seeking resettlement, they face anxiety and uncertainty while awaiting feedback on resettlement cases that are unexpectedly delayed.

Resettlement to another country is the only durable solution in sight for thousands of refugees housed in Kakuma Camp with no immediate prospects of returning home.

According to Antonio Guterres of the UN refugee agency that the number of "uprooted people worldwide"in 2008 was 42 million, a drop of about 700,000 from 2007."In 2009, we have already seensubstantial new displacements, namely in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia."

"The new influx of refugees is putting more pressure on an already aged infrastructure," said Anne Campbell, head of the UNHCR's office in Dadaab.

"We are appealing to the Kenyan government to provide us land to settle them(new refugees), and call on the donors to give us the funding we need to set up a new camp and upgrade the old ones."

But those fleeing violence care less about the aged facilities or the overflowing camps. Reaching safe camps, away from bullets and grinding poverty in Somalia, is all Dahir's wife,Hawo Ahmed, needs.

"If you get food, what else do you need?" she said while breast-feeding her youngest child. "He will not get enough milk, I know. But when we settle down and I get enough food to eat, he will get sufficient milk," she said to Xinhua.

Abdulai Murmmud who escaped from Mogadishu late last year when war broke out. He is now running a small shop in Dadaab camp. "In Mogadishu I was running a wholesale shop but within three weeks of fighting my business was reduced to a kiosk by militants as they could come and take things without paying, I said enough is enough and that is why I am here" he told Xinhua.

Murmmud is not the only one who has started doing business in this refugee camps. Small businesses are mushrooming in all the camps as refugees have realized they are not leaving any time soonand life has to continue.

"When I come here I had some American dollars send to me by my half-brother in Canada to boost my hardware shop in Mogadishu but I realized I could end up losing all my money so I came here and started selling this stuff you can see", said Yasmin sheik faruq, pointing to mattresses beddings and other household goods.

"Most refugees fleeing Somali are in a hurry and hardly carry any thing, so when they land in camps it is like starting a life anew " said faruq.

Source: Xinhua

Special Coverage: Dadaab Refugee Camp Documentary

July 11th, 2009

This video highlights the suffering of Somalis at the Kenyan border camp.