Home to over 500,000 displaced refugees, the world’s largest permanent refugee camp huddles in disrepair on the border of Kenya and Somalia. Called Dadaab, this camp would be Kenya’s third or fourth largest city – if it was officially recognized as such. This unofficial ‘city’ the size of Cleveland, Ohio is nothing more than a sea of improvised shacks with plastic bags for roofing material. Facing high crime rates, clan violence, and rampant outbreaks of disease, the residents of Dadaab need help.
Dadaab has existed for almost 25 years, ever since Somalia devolved into its current state of leaderless violence. The camp hasn’t stopped growing yet, but after such a long struggle, government aid and media attention are flagging. Aid and funding provided by the UN and a collection of NGOs is not nearly enough for this changing problem. What Dadaab truly needs is a long-term solution. That is, funding directed towards a long-term solution.
How can Dadaab’s problems be solved? There are several possibilities. The first and most ideal is a revitalized Somalia. Unfortunately, Somalia represents a complex problem, and a solution for it may not arise in the near future. What Dadaab needs in the meantime is a focus on the root sources of squalor within the camp itself.
Although viewed as a temporary space, Dadaab has the same problems as any permanent city in times of trouble. Its residents need employment, education, water, sanitation, and safety. An international aid organization called CARE is working towards all these goals, but funding is limited. What western governments and other NGOs must do is to follow CARE’s example and focus on these more involved, higher return solutions.
Most officials balk at funding programs with less immediate results, but it is these programs that will ease the burden of providing outside aid to Dadaab. Do your part for the half-million refugees in Dadaab – channel U.S. funding to programs for this very real city’s education, employment and infrastructure.
The world’s largest refugee camp, called Dadaab, on the border of Kenya and Somalia, has been steadily growing and steadily devolving for almost 25 years. The camp’s previous and temporary needs have transformed into more permanent vacuums in infrastructure, similar to those that exist in official cities.
As it stands now, much government aid directed towards Dadaab is channeled into immediate solutions like medicine, food supplies, and other ‘band-aid’ solutions. What this camp truly needs is a focus on self-sufficiency that will take the burden of outside aid off countries like ours. I urge you to follow the example of institutions like CARE that are setting up programs for employment, education, sanitation, and safety – less immediately tangible but more advantageous solutions.
[Your Name Here]
photo credit: Internews Network via Flickr