Tag Archives: Horn of Africa

Norwegian Charity Says More Aid Needed for Somali Refugee Children

Displaced children in Somaliland are deprived of basic rights such as access to clean water, food, health services and education. Photo: NRC/Astrid Sehl

The Norwegian Refugee Council is calling on the world to increase aid for Somali children displaced by conflict and famine.

Last summer the world was stunned with tens of thousands of Somali children starving to death. A severe drought had struck Somalia and East Africa, causing massive food shortages. Conflict within Somalia made the situation far worse by preventing aid from reaching the needy.

Thousands of children and their families were able to flee the worst hunger and conflict areas. Many of these “children of famine” found refuge in camps in Dadaab, Kenya.

A year later their plight in the refugee camps is largely silent to the world. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) wants to change this by focusing on these children’s needs. They have a chance to recover if the world gives them enough help.

Somali refugees need the basics of food, water, shelter. They also need education to learn and develop the skills needed to get out of these camps and build a life. NRC issued a report in May about the lack of educational resources at the Dadaab camps.

Dadaab does not have enough school facilities and teachers. There are 221,000 school age children in the refugee camps but only 57,000 are enrolled in school. Funding is needed to build up the schools.

The NRC Regional Director Hassan Khaire says, “The universal right to education applies also for refugee children in Dadaab, but only in theory. The international community has to step up and demonstrate the importance of investing in the development and future of young Somali refugees.”

NRC is partnering with other organizations on developing accelerated learning programs to help children “catch up” and get their education back on track.

For those who are already enrolled in school at Dadaab, there is the problem of staying the course. The NRC report says, “The number of students who actually complete school is much lower, as the drop out rates are very high especially for girls.” The challenge is getting kids into school in East Africa and then keeping them there to finish their education.

School feeding programs run by the UN World Food Programme and other groups are vital especially with malnutrition being such a threat to the refugees.

Astrid Sehl, an NRC officer, recently took some time to answer a few questions on how the world can help the children of the East Africa famine.

What is being done to increase the number of schools and teachers in the Daddab refugee camp?

UN and non-governmental organizations are doing what they can to build more schools and educate more teachers in Dadaab – e.g. the joint Education strategy (Accelerated learning program). However, as always, funding when it comes to crises and education, is very limited, and a lot more should be done!

Could take home rations be added to any existing school feeding in order to reduce the dropout rate?

Yes, take home rations is a good idea. For the time being, we provide school feeding and we are investigating funding opportunities for take-home rations (or introducing school gardens, where the kids are taught how to grow vegetables and they can bring the knowledge and produce home).

For children displaced inside Somalia has NRC been able to reach them with educational materials?

Yes, we have large educational programs for internally displaced persons across Somalia – in Somaliland, Puntland and South Central. So we’re supporting thousands of internally displaced children and youth with education, skills training, we train teachers and build schools – but again – more efforts are required to meet children’s right to education.

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Remembering the Horn of Africa This Holiday Season

The UN World Food Programme and CARE team up to provide food to refugees who have fled Somalia (WFP/Mariko Hall). Both of these agencies are accepting donations for East Africa.

President Obama issued a statement last week thanking Americans who had donated to relief efforts in the Horn of Africa this year. He also cautioned that much more needs to be done to overcome the humanitarian tragedy of 2011.

Obama said, “As we enter the season of giving and renewal, more than 13.3 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia remain in urgent need of humanitarian assistance amid the worst drought the region has seen in 60 years. The heartbreaking accounts of lives lost and of those struggling to survive remind us of our common humanity and the need to reach out to people in need.”

The U.S. has a great tradition of leading the fight against famine wherever it occurs. In 1946, just a year after World War II ended, the threat of massive famine loomed over the globe as food supplies were running low. In this case, the paths of the U.S., Somalia, and Ethiopia crossed briefly.

Herbert Hoover, who was appointed food ambassador during this crisis, first reviewed the food supply of as many nations as possible. In this report were listed Somaliland and Ethiopia. Hoover writes “of self-sufficient nations in Africa, we classified Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, and Somaliland, with a total population perhaps of 35,000,000 people.”

There were no reports of drought that year in East Africa. Of course, any country not in food deficit at that time was a huge relief with the impending worldwide famine. It was going to be enough of a challenge to meet the food needs of the war-devastated countries.

Whether or not there is a drought is all about luck. In 1946 there was luckily none in East Africa. This year a different story–a huge drought.

What does not depend on luck though is how well nations are prepared to deal with drought. Many actions can be taken by the international community to help build up the resilience of farmers in developing countries so that when drought does hit, it is not catastrophic. Food reserves can also be in place to prevent a year of setbacks from drought and keep a country moving toward food security.

So, this is one of the lessons of this year. Invest in farmers today to avoid the famine of tomorrow.

Article first published as Remembering the Horn of Africa this Holiday Season on Blogcritics.

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