News / Africa

After Long Trek, Somali Refugees Face More Hardship in Camps

A Somali woman stands in front of Somalis queuing outside the reception center in Ifo refugee camp, one of three camps in Kenya's Dadaab refugee complex on July 25, 2011
A Somali woman stands in front of Somalis queuing outside the reception center in Ifo refugee camp, one of three camps in Kenya's Dadaab refugee complex on July 25, 2011
Michael Onyiego

With millions being affected by the ongoing famine and instability in Somalia, the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya are seen by many desperate Somalis as a safe haven. But for some, the journey to Dadaab has only brought more hardship.

An estimated 1,300 Somalis are crossing into Kenya every single day in search of salvation from the ongoing suffering at home in Somalia. Word of sanctuary at Dadaab has spread across much of the country, prompting many to risk the long journey - often on foot - in hopes of a better life.

Famine in Somalia

Many do not survive the journey, which can take more than a month. But those who do survive often find respite in the form of plentiful food, water and shelter provided by the humanitarian agencies operating in the camps.

For some, however, salvation is not so quick in coming. The massive influx of refugees over recent months has inundated the camps, straining the resources of those agencies trying to help. When refugees first arrive in Dadaab, they are provided with an initial food ration meant to last until they are officially registered and receive ration cards.

But with so many refugees arriving every day, registration can take too long, leaving people to fend for themselves while awaiting the precious designation of registered refugee.

Nurta Heirat left Baidoa with her two children in June to escape the oppression of the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab. The family walked for 20 days to reach Dadaab, where they received their initial rations. But now, after more than two weeks in the camps, their food has run out.

Nurta returns to the UNHCR registration center in the Dagahaley camp each day in the hope of receiving her ration card but has so far had no luck.

Heirat and her children do not yet have a tent to sleep in. It was only through chance that she found her cousin Abdirashid Hajj at the camp, who has provided them with some support during the past week.

Newly arrived Somali refugees queue for relief food at the Dadaab refugee camp, near the Kenya-Somalia, July 23, 2011
Newly arrived Somali refugees queue for relief food at the Dadaab refugee camp, near the Kenya-Somalia, July 23, 2011

Nurta's story is unfortunately common. The massive human pressure created by the recent Somali exodus has distribution systems at a breaking point, something humanitarian organizations are trying to address.

Rose Ogola, a spokesperson for the World Food Program at Dadaab, says "Initially when we started giving food here at the reception centers, we started by giving a 15-day ration in the hope that these people - within those 15 days - will have been registered and we can put them in the general manifest. However, because of the large influx, we realized this was not working. So since the 15th of July we changed that strategy and instead of a 15-day ration we are now giving a 21-day ration."

With refugees continuing to stream into Dadaab, it is likely the 21 days will not be enough. Some arrivals have reported waiting for up to 40 days for ration cards, leaving them helpless in the interim.

And challenges also exist once refugees are settled within the camps. Yusuf Ali and Fatumah Muhamud came from Somalia in 2008 to escape the fighting in their area. They were initially settled in the Dagahaley camp and had little problem until their 15-year-old daughter was raped. The parents reported the crime to UNHCR, who promptly arrested and jailed the man responsible.

But relatives of the attacker began to cause problems for Ali and Muhamud, demanding that they leave Dagahaley, and even attempting to kidnap their daughter. Recently, Ali and Muhamud moved their family out of Dagahaley for fear of continued reprisals from the family of the attacker. They have since been sleeping near the Dagahaley registration center in the hope of being moved to another camp or another area of Kenya.

Though refugees throughout the camps in Dadaab do find refuge from the numerous problems of Somalia, for many the hardships of the journey and the challenge of rebuilding their lives prove too costly.

Janet Ndoti-Ndila, who works for Care International as the lead psychological counselor in Dagahaley, says some of those she speaks with actually regret their decision to leave.

"Especially on the way sometimes they lose property. So that is one of the things that will make them say, 'I should not have come," she said. "We've lost property, I've lost my cattle, I've lost my gold. I have nothing.'"

UN World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran meets newly arrived Somali refugees at the Dadaab refugee camp, near the Kenya-Somalia, July 23, 2011
UN World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran meets newly arrived Somali refugees at the Dadaab refugee camp, near the Kenya-Somalia, July 23, 2011

Aid groups including Care, the World Food Program and the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, are scrambling to meet the needs of Dadaab's mushrooming population, but the resources available are simply not enough. Around one half of the estimated $2 billion needed to address the east African crisis has been delivered thus far.

Shortages of critical items such as tents mean refugees receive only plastic sheets for constructing shelter on the outskirts of the camps. With humanitarian resources strained to the limit, many refugees will simply have to wait for the reprieve they have traveled hundreds of miles to find.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid