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Protecting children in Dadaab, Kenya

Yesterday, I arrived back in Dadaab, a town in the north-east province of Kenya, about 80 km east of the Somali border after being away for two and a half years. I’m advising the programme on how to scale up our emergency response to the drought currently affecting the region.

Dadaab is the name used to refer to a cluster of camps set up to receive and shelter refugees fleeing violence in areas of Somalia. It was originally envisaged as a temporary home to 90,000 people. 18 years later, the camp serves some 280,000 people. The average life of a refugee camp is now around seven years, and even this huge figure is eclipsed by this camp.

We started to set up programming in this refugee camp in November 2006 after severe flooding hit large areas of homes grouped into areas (which we call blocks), causing widespread damage and misery to people who had already fled Somalia.

In the camp our main focus is protecting children and providing social services to an overwhelming number of children. It’s a slow process, and very challenging. I’m now back to meet the team, and am happy to see several familiar faces. We had a meeting with our child protection supervisors, who are themselves refugees living in the camps working within their own living areas. It was difficult to hear the struggles they still face.

There are many challenges that affect many children who have fled conflict. Some have sustained injuries, others lack basic items like sleeping mats and, in rare cases, arrive alone to face the sprawling mass of shelters where hundreds of thousands of people are living.

Onto more meetings….

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