News / Africa

Old Refugees Welcome New Arrivals in Dadaab

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
Michael Onyiego

With resources at Kenya’s overcrowded Dadaab refugee camps stretched thin, longtime residents of the camps have extended a helping hand to new arrivals.

Helping each other

Upon arrival at the registration center in the Dagahaley refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, families fleeing the famine in Somalia are greeted by perhaps a surprising sight.  Before receiving even their first rations from the World Food Program, new arrivals to the camps are handed a pack of supplies by their fellow refugees.

With people pouring in to Dadaab in recent months, long-term residents of the Dagahaley, Hagadera and Ifo refugee camps have joined with the United Nations Refugee Agency, or UNHCR, and other organizations to not only support those fleeing the crisis, but also to welcome them to their new homes.

Most immediate needs met

In the registration lines, established residents of the Dagahaley camp distribute new shoes, which are often badly needed by those who have arrived after weeks on foot.  The arriving refugees also receive new clothes and milk for young children in immediate need of nutrition.

In the Dagahaley registration center, community leader Bashir Ahmed Bir passes out shoes to new arrivals.

Bir says many of the items being supplied to the refugees are being supplied in the Dagahaley market, through the support of the Muslim community in Dadaab and other cities throughout Kenya. Community efforts have recently been aimed at the new arrivals, and settled residents of the camps have been encouraged to contribute for the new arrivals.

In recent months, tens of thousands of Somalis have risked the long journey to Dadaab in search of a respite from the ongoing famine in Somalia.  But for numerous camp residents, Dadaab is home.  Around 400,000 now live in the three camps surrounding Dadaab.  Many have been there since the early 1990's, when the last Somali famine sent people streaming across the border. Since then, the camps have evolved from temporary centers of crisis response into true communities, complete with shops, schools, religious centers and outreach programs.

They have even organized, choosing representatives to lead the camps and communicate on their behalf to the aid agencies working in the area.

The recent influx of refugees has inundated the already overcrowded camps, creating tensions among those who have been settled for years. But according to recently-elected Dagahaley Community Leader Zeinab Mohamed, community assistance is about more than making room for the new refugees.

All residents of the camps in Dadaab were at one point forced to flee their homes in Somalia and Mohamed said the old residents of Dagahaley feel the pain of the recent arrivals. Mohamed said the old and new arrivals are all Somali and that the Dagahaley community was ready to help.

Burial assistance needed

But community organizations around Dadaab do more than simply welcome refugees; they also provide assistance with more solemn tasks, such as burial of the dead.

Abdullahi Hussein is the leader of the Dadaab Youth Committee.

“These families that are losing their loved ones are very poor families. They cannot even dig the grave; they cannot even buy the clothes used to wrap the dead bodies.  We told them that there are such kind of people who are ready to assist you,” Hussein said.

Hussein told VOA that the Dagahaley community often provides families who have lost loved ones - both in the camps and along the journey - with tools to dig the graves as well as proper burial clothes for the deceased.

The groups in Dagahaley have also taken on a coordinating role, designating cemeteries in the camp outskirts for new arrivals, to prevent crowding or random burials.  Three burial sites have been opened in the outskirts of both the Dagahaley and Ifo camps, while one has been established in nearby Hagadera.

The community groups also play a role in counting the numbers who have died in the camps.  With many of the recent arrivals not yet registered with UNHCR, these figures often elude aid organizations working in Dadaab.

In the 10 days before VOA spoke with Hussein, the youth leader said at least 27 had died in the Dagahaley camp alone, 25 of whom were children.  Hussein says around 85 percent of the deaths observed by his organization are children under the age of 5 years old.

The United Nations says only half of the $2 billion needed to address the ongoing famine in East Africa has been contributed by the international community to date.  Humanitarian agencies have been strained to the limit trying to cope with the influx in Dadaab, but the local community of refugees appears ready and willing to shoulder at least some of the burden.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

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

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

Day in Photos

A dog, with his fur dyed green and wearing antlers made out of red fabric, poses for a photograph before participating in the Thanksgiving Day Parade in El Paso, Texas, United States, Nov. 26, 2015.

A dog, with his fur dyed green and wearing antlers made out of red fabric, poses for a photograph before participating in the Thanksgiving Day Parade in El Paso, Texas, United States, Nov. 26, 2015.