NAIROBI (AlertNet) - Somalis living in the world’s largest refugee camp risk being recruited by armed groups and bandits as children grow up without education in increasingly desperate conditions, eight aid agencies said on Thursday.
The government blames the violence on al Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia and sympathisers inside Kenya. The Kenyan police have arrested Somali refugees in connection with the incidents, alleging that they are using Dadaab to store explosive materials and plan attacks.
“You have lots of youth in Dadaab who can’t work - they don’t have an education, they’ve got limited ways of feeding their families,” Alun McDonald, Oxfam’s East Africa spokesman, told AlertNet.
“That frustration is naturally going to increase the potential for them being recruited into armed groups or militias.”
Many of the refugees in Dadaab are children and young people, who have little hope of leaving to return to Somalia or be resettled overseas, pursuing higher education or getting a job.
Over 70 percent of children living in the sprawling camp - 164,000 of them - do not attend its overcrowded schools, whether because classes are in a foreign language and culturally inappropriate, or it’s too far to get there.
MONEY RUNNING OUT
The group of agencies also warned that, one year after famine was declared in Somalia, they face a $25 million funding shortfall for their operations over the next ninth months, putting at least 200,000 refugees at risk.
“As the world’s attention has shifted to pressing problems in other countries, cuts in humanitarian funding are threatening the health, security and livelihoods of refugee populations in Dadaab,” the agencies - which include Oxfam, Save the Children, CARE and the Danish Refugee Council - said in a statement.
Money for vital services is set to run out in the next two to three months, they said. Some 130,000 refugees are living in temporary tents that need replacing with new shelters, but there aren’t enough funds to do so.
From September, 50,000 refugees will be without water and sanitation services, exposing them to the risk of cholera.
Health facilities are seriously overstretched, with 78,000 people sharing two health units in the Hagadera section of the camp, four times the minimum emergency standard of one unit per 10,000 people.
RISE IN SEXUAL VIOLENCE
Sexual violence has increased by 36 percent between February and May while funding for protection programmes has fallen, the agencies noted.
Attacks on women have risen because of the failure to provide secure shelters and make services like toilets easily accessible, as well as inadequate policing and the camp’s growing population, now one third larger than before the famine.
“People living in basic tents are typically more vulnerable. We also saw a big increase in sexual violence in camps in Mogadishu when lots of people arrived there,” McDonald said.
“When women have to walk a few blocks of the camp at night to get to a latrine, it does increase the risk.”
Since October, the worsening security situation in the camp, 100km from the Somali border, has forced aid agencies to suspend delivery of all but life-saving assistance such as food and water.
They increasingly rely on refugees and local groups to provide services.
Restrictions were tightened after the kidnapping of four foreign aid workers from Dadaab on June 29.
“Since the latest incident, they're back to how it was late last year - mostly working from the base, with local refugee partners and water committees who we have trained running the water supplies,” said McDonald.
“It's those local NGOs (non-governmental organisations) who can keep working when insecurity is high that need more investment.”
The agencies called for more funding and long-term solutions to improve living conditions and offer more hope and opportunities to the refugees in Dadaab, many of whom have never left the camp.
“We want the government and donors and everybody to have an honest conversation rather than just treating Dadaab as this sort of unending emergency,” McDonald said.
For more information, read the briefing note, The Human Costs of the Funding Shortfalls for the Dadaab Refugee Camps.