While Dabaab refugee camps in Northern Kenya have become the world biggest in recent months, now hosting almost half a million Somali refugees fleeing drought and violence in their homelands, they are not the only camps borne of this natural disaster compounded by armed conflict. Many Somalis are also heading north towards Ethiopia and the Dolo Ado refugee camps which are just eight kilometers from the Northern Somali border, these camps receive less visibility, although the situation there is equally urgent with mortality rates four times above emergency thresholds in July.
The four camps, spread over a stretch of arid land, now host 130,000 refugees and the influx has not ended: in the first two weeks of October there were almost 5,000 new arrivals. To respond to the influx another camp is due to open in the coming weeks.
ECHO partners such as Doctors Without Borders, International Medical Corps, Unicef, Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee are doing their best to improve malnutrition levels, especially among children under five through supplementary feeding programmes, and to prevent epidemics, vaccination campaigns and efforts to imporove sanitation are underway. The European Commission is responding to these challenges – it has allocated more than €14 million to humanitarian operations in the Dolo Ado camps in 2011.
Improving hygiene and sanitation is complicated by the fact that infrastructrue remains weak and because most refugees here have lived in rural areas all their lives and have never seen a latrine before.
Protection is another concern. A survey carried out by ECHO's partners estimated that there are at least 2,500 unaccompanied children in the Dolo Ado camps. According to UNHCR, 53.4% of the population in the four camps is female and 61.9% is under the age of 18. This makes sexual violence, intimate partner violence, and physical assault as some of the most pressing risks for the women and girls in the camps. Collecting firewood is a hazardous activity for refugee women, for this is when they are most exposed to attacks. Efforts to boost the safety of women and girls have included the creation of female-only safe spaces, where women can report protection concerns and access specialized services.
Despite these many obstacles and away from the media limelight, a tireless battalion of aid workers continues working to save as many lives as they can. ECHO and the European Union is standing firm behind them.
Photo story October 2011
Photo credits: Bea Spadacini/European Union Humanitarian Aid