Kenya: What Future for Dadaab?

Dadaab, Kenya (map, photos) is often said to be the largest refugee camp in the world. The camp faces severe challenges concerning health, insecurity (including kidnappings of aid workers), violence (including sexual violence), police abuse of refugees, and logistical issues (such as processing new arrivals). Yesterday a panel convened to discuss the way forward for Dadaab. IRIN reports:

Key stakeholders meeting on 14 June to discuss the future of Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya acknowledge that there are tough choices ahead, but no agreed way forward.

The panel discussion, entitled “Dadaab 20 years on: what next?”, was organized by NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Nairobi, and included government officials, UN agencies, NGOs and representatives from Dadaab’s refugee community.

Dadaab, originally built to house 90,000 refugees, currently hosts close to 500,000; management of the camp was handed over to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in the early 1990s. Stakeholders say with more refugees arriving daily, it is becoming increasingly difficult to run: It now has a bigger population than Nakuru, Kenya’s fourth largest city, and is the biggest refugee camp in the world.

The panel discussed possible alternatives to Dadaab, including persuading the international community to allow more refugees to resettle abroad, relocating refugees to safer areas in smaller camps, and creating ways for the refugees to become more self-reliant.

MSF’s statement on Dadaab, “The Camps Cannot Go On,” is here. It begins:

It is only a matter of time before the next emergency hits the Dadaab refugee camp, says a briefing paper, Dadaab: Shadows of Lives, released today by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) ahead of World Refugee DayIn this paper, MSF describes the plight of half a million refugees living in increasingly insecure conditions with nowhere else to go, and argues that there is an urgent need to explore alternatives.

One year after the humanitarian crisis of 2011, malnutrition and mortality rates have dropped to pre-emergency levels, says MSF. But the situation in the camps remains unacceptable, and – without significant change – this pattern of health crises followed by periods of relative calm will continue indefinitely, with medical workers constantly on their guard for the next emergency.

MSF does not advocate a single solution, but rather (as in the IRIN report above) offers a range of potential alternatives to the status quo. For more from MSF on Dadaab, see here.

For more about Dadaab, see the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Q&A on the camps from March, ominously titled “The Dadaab Refugee Complex: A Powder Keg and It’s Giving Off Sparks,” and Think Africa Press‘s November 2011 article on the camps.

What solutions do you think would help alleviate Dadaab’s problems?

One thought on “Kenya: What Future for Dadaab?

  1. Pingback: Sunday Reading « zunguzungu

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