The recent European Refugee Crisis shifted my attention back to the whole issue of migration and I ended up coming across a hearting touching article on Dabaab, located just 90 kms from Somalia with the designation of the world`s largest refugee camp and its impeding crisis due to the recent cut on aids by the World Food Program as well as the threatening by the Kenyan Government to close down the camp on account of the attack on Garissa University on 2nd April, 2015, by the Al-Shabaab militant group based in Somalia, an offshoot the Al-Qaeda killing 147 and injuring 79 or more. Kenyan Authorities were of the opinion that most of the militants of Al-Shabab were from the Daabab camp which were harboring them, which posed a serious threat to the nation`s security and therefore threatened to close down the camp but later retracted with the intervention of UNHRC and other international organizations.
So what makes Daabab, the world`s refugee camp is the sheer number of refugees population it handles which is 650,610(taking into account both the refugees and asylum seeker) as per UNRC report of January 2015. Daabab was constructed in 1990 in response to the large number of Somalis fleeing the civil war in Somalia. Originally three camps were designated to handle 90,000 people but presently there are five camps which handle approximately half a million people. With no sign of the conflict coming to a halt in Somalia the situation became more perplexed with a severe drought affecting Somalia in 2011, leading to a increased number of people migrating to the camp from Somalia (approx.) 6000 everyday leading to a humanitarian crisis in the camp as the UNHRC did not have the sufficient resources to handle new bouts of migration.
Besides 95% of the population being Somalis, Ethiopians comprise the second largest group and very small number of Sudanese, Eritreans, Congolese, Burundians, Tanzanians, Ugandans and Rwandans are also present. Dabaab has five refugee camps comprising of Dagahaley, Ifo East, Ifo West, Kambioos, Hagadera. The camp`s remote location, as well as the temperatures which can rise up to 48 C during and limited natural resources during summer make for harsh living condition . Residents are not to allowed to venture outside their camps as strict laws have been made by Kenyan Government of encampment, so people are forced to live like ‘open caged prisoners with no opportunities for integration with the local Kenyan population or making themselves economically developed. As a result shops selling smartphones, bear-bars as well as ‘hotels’ have come up inside the camp. The Dabaab camp which generates 25% of Kenya`s North Eastern province total revenue if taken into account would be considered as the third largest city of Kenya in terms of revenue.
Health is one of the most pressing problems in the camp with 80% of the population comprising of women and children. Medecines Sans Frontieres has been providing health care services in the camp since the last 14 years and it is the sole provider of medical services in the Dagahaley camp, one of the five camp that comprises the Dabaab camp, providing health care for the general residents at five posts as well as runs a 170 bed general hospital. Research by the medical group has identified respiratory tract infection, tuberculosis, diarrhea, malnutrition and trauma as the most impending medical cases effecting the camp. Moreover 40% of the children who arrive on the camp have never taken vaccinations and combined with poor nutritional status as well as poor living conditions pose a serious health issue. Flash vaccinations campaigns are run by the group regularly in order to make people aware of the vaccination drives. Malnutrition has also been a major problem in the camp with 175 admissions per month in the MSF`s quickly outpatient feeding program. With the World Food Program announcing a cut in ration by 20% it would mean a severe problem in running the feeding program for the malnourished children.
Sanitation and water availability are the other two issue affecting the residents severely with resources already stretched to its limit and there are no clear timeframes for improvement of both the conditions in the camp. This has resulted in outbreak of diseases like cholera and Hepatitis-B in the recent years. As such it requires a swift action from the aid agencies to stop the diseases from spreading quickly.
The UN seems to be dealing with two problems in the camp, one related to finding long term developmental solution for the residents of the camp such as providing water, sanitation facilities, schools, police outposts as well as finding short term emergency relief for the newly arrived refugees such a blankets, utensils, rations which the UN is facing a shortage of resource.
Though Kenya has softened its stance as of threatening to close down the camp and has agreed to work and co-operate according to the tripartite agreement signed between Kenya, Somalia and UNHRC in 2013 for the voluntary return of the refugees, it remains to be seen as to what extent it will be able to support the refugee camp and for how long. Kenya has been mobilizing international support in the recent days to provide international security as well as build up social infrastructure such as houses, schools, hospitals in order to make potential areas of return more viable. Moreover Kenyan Authorities has also developed a long term solution plan to the influx problem and are in talks with the Somalian Authorities for developing an autonomous buffer zone near the Kenyan border inside Somalia called ‘Jubaland’ to discourage the refugees from entering Kenya where all the services would be available and it would be protected with the help of Kenyan and Ethiopian troops. Kenya has also been training Somali youths for this purpose over the last two years.
International cooperation in the form of military help is very important in order to flush out the militancy problem from Somalia. More aid is needed from the rich nations in order to support the ongoing activities at the refugee camps as well as helping out those who wants to return to their respective country of their origin and start a new lease of life. Countries with a low population in ratio to the large land and resources available can take in more refugees and assimilate them with their local population, which will go a long way in dealing with the humanitarian crisis.