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Youth group Fills Gap of Response For Somali Refugees

Ibado Mahmud, 50, at the Dagahaley camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Mahmud had her eyes removed by Ethiopian troops before travelling to the camps. Doctors believe she is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Thousands of Somali refugees have walked for days, even weeks need help at Kenyan town.

As International response to the Somalia famine mounts, thousands of Somali refugees are continuing their trek to refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Most of them are on their way to the Dadaab refugee camp. The Dadaab complex is in the North Eastern Province. It’s become home to hundreds of thousands of refugees, even though the camps there were built to hold only 90,000.

But many refugees are not able to make it that far without help. After weeks of walking, refugees, mostly women and children, reach the Kenyan border tired and hungry. They have a long distance to go before they reach the camp.

At the Dagahaley refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, families fleeing the famine in Somalia are given aid, but also face new challenges. VOA's Michael Onyiego visited the camp and took these pictures.

Abdisalam Aato is part of a group of young Somali, Kenyan and American filmmakers, who have travelled to Dadaab and to the Kenyan border. He says that his team is documenting what they call a “gap of response.”

Aato and his friends have formed an online campaign using social media networks like Facebook and Twitter to ask for help from fellow Somali youth and others in the diaspora.

“In the beginning we asked our friends on Facebook and Twitter to send us some money. With that little money we helped about 120 something people. The resources we have are not that much but we are determined that whatever we can get…to go back and help some more people,” he said.

Their effort, known as the Global Somali Emergency Response, is using the funds collected online to provide survival backpacks to the refugees.

“Think of someone who has been walking 30 to 40 days and when they get to the Kenyan border still they have to walk another 90 kilometers and they have nothing,” he said.

The team is asking for more funds to buy survival backpacks. “The Survival Backpacks are for immediate interim assistance,” he said.

Aato and his team are documenting the accounts of the refugees and posting their stories online. They hope that other young people will take up the cause and raise funds to help more refugees.