Somalia + 2 more

East Africa: helping refugees despite worsening violence

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By Ellie Matthews

In East Africa, continued difficulties accessing food – coupled with recent flooding and conflict in the region – have made life hard for many people. While working with communities in East Africa to improve their long-term resilience to food insecurity, the Red Cross is also providing immediate relief to thousands of vulnerable people in refugee camps.

Difficult conditions

Over 955,000 Somali refugees are living in countries neighbouring Somalia – over a third of whom fled the country last year. Another 1.3 million people are displaced within Somalia.

Violence in East Africa has also meant many aid agencies have stopped working in the region. In the Dadaab camps – home to more than 463,000 refugees – the threat of improvised explosive devices, kidnappings, vehicle hijackings and banditry remains high. Several police officers and refugee leaders have been killed, and aid workers have been kidnapped.

In Ethiopia, three armed men recently opened fire on the vehicle of an international non-governmental organisation near the Dollo Ado refugee camps, home to around 140,000 refugees. Again, this has had a knock-on effect on humanitarian work in the camps.

The seasonal deyr rains – which brought improved conditions for growing crops and raising animals in some parts of the Horn of Africa – caused widespread flooding in Kenya. Around 5,000 people in Ifo II East and West extension camps of Dadaab lost their shelters in the floods. Several latrines were washed away, making water-borne disease an increased risk. With malnutrition already a problem in the camps, people are particularly vulnerable to disease outbreaks.

Helping refugees

The Kenya Red Cross is now managing Ifo II West refugee camp in Dadaab and providing essential services in Ifo II East. It is providing health and nutrition services, psycho-social support, security training and hygiene promotion. Some of the ways the Kenya Red Cross has helped vulnerable refugees are by:

  • setting up a tented hospital and operating two health posts

  • enrolling 3,150 severely malnourished children under ten in its out-patient therapeutic feeding programme

  • running polio campaigns, during which over 17,800 children were immunised

  • training 77 community health workers on nutrition and hygiene promotion

  • training 47 community peace and security team members in areas such as human rights, crime detection and prevention, community policing and gender-based violence

  • reaching 1,950 people through demonstrations on the use of soap and clean water to wash water storage cans.

Some of the funds raised from the British Red Cross’ East Africa Food Crisis Appeal are helping support the Kenya Red Cross and International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ work in the Ifo II East and West areas of Dadaab. The money will help provide logistical equipment such as vehicles, forklifts, generators, relief items, construction materials and supplies.

Donate to the East Africa Food Crisis Appeal and help support the Red Cross’ work.