CANADEM's Somalia Response
The drought in the Horn of Africa forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes in search of food, water and security, resulting in a humanitarian crisis not seen for decades. With over 11 million people at risk of starvation in the region, the United Nations declared a famine in parts of Somalia. Refugees poured into Kenya from Somalia, with the primary aim of reaching Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp. Built to house 90,000 residents, Dadaab is now bursting with over 440,000 refugees.
As the United Nations' only Canadian standby partner, CANADEM assisted numerous UN agencies to rapidly recruit and deploy Canadian and international experts to assist in coordinating relief efforts in Kenya and Somalia. To read about our humanitarian assistance deployments, please visit our Deployments page.
August 10, 2011
Jan Brouwer - CANADEM registrant working at Dadaab refugee camp
Jan Brouwer is a CANADEM registrant who worked as a Child Protection Officer with UNHCR in Kenya. He deployed under UNHCR's Emergency Response team assisting in protection and relief efforts along the Kenyan-Somalian border. Read Jan's story and view his pictures from the largest refugee camp in the world - Dadaab.
My assignment with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for the crisis along the Kenya-Somalia border is for child and adolescent protection. Our aim is to provide protection interventions for people escaping drought, famine and violence in Somalia. They are arriving to Kenya as refugees. My role as UNHCR Child Protection Officer is to work within teams and partners to ensure protection response is extended to the most vulnerable children and adolescents - both as groups and as individuals. Women and children make up over 70% of the arriving refugee population.
|IFO Extension Refugee Camp, Dadaab, Kenya. July 31 2011|
I am deployed under UNHCR's Emergency Response Team, where the organization mobilizes human resources on an urgent basis from various UNHCR global office locations to come together and support a particular field office operation dealing with the crisis. In this instance, it is the UNHCR Sub-Office Dadaab that we are supporting.
Dadaab Refugee Camp in north-east, Kenya, is actually three separate camps spaced several kilometers apart. Dadaab is located some 80 kilometers west of the Somali border, and about 500 kilometers north-east of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Dagahaley Refugee Camp, Dadaab, Kenya. 02 August 2011. Newly arrived families from Somalia line up outside the camp's reception centre. When they eventually make it inside, each individual will be identified by name, age and origin and each receive a wristband. Because people have been arriving at a faster rate than the Kenyan government can register them, there is a scheduling for each new arrival for when they are to later return to receive official documented refugee status.
Every morning the UNHCR team members disburse early via UN convoys with armed protection to their respective assigned camps to monitor and respond to protection issues, and provide direct oversight and support to various partners implementing emergency services on behalf of UNHCR.
What is an example of a 'protection issue'? Every day at dawn, hundreds of newly arrived refugees congregate outside the gates of the camps. Each of the three camps have designated "reception centres" to perform initial identification and to assign a wrist band to each individual family member. These wrist bands will allow the bearer to return on a scheduled date to go through the official governments registration process.
Everyone arriving is vulnerable, having walked hundreds of miles through parched desert scrub with the threat of armed groups (Al-Shabaab) and at risk of starvation. The sheer volume of people mean that the registration system is under strain. As UNHCR staff, we carry out monitoring to screen for those individuals who are extra vulnerable. People who are identified as 'extra' vulnerable are usually the elderly, the sick, the disabled, child-headed families, orphans, and unaccompanied and separated children. Anyone identified as requiring extra protection is provided with assistance and are “fast-tracked” through the registration process. A family receives their wrist bands at the reception center. This enables them to have an initial health screening and a 21-day food and non-food item package which will allow them to set up their shelter while they wait for official registration.
This is the worst crisis I have seen in some six years of working emergency settings. Why? Because of both the volume of families that are women and children-headed households, and of the extreme needs each of these families have for water, food, shelter and other forms of protection and security. Some women are arriving without their husbands – who may have had to stay behind or have passed away – and she is not only fighting for her survival but also for her children – anywhere from a few children to up to 10!
Predictably, people arriving by foot to the Kenya-Somalia border tend to be in particularly rough condition. And they are ALL arriving by foot. Once they eventually reach the camp reception centres around Dadaab, they will be provided with an initial package of food and non-food items that is supposed to last 21 days. These packages assist families to build a temporary shelter while waiting to proceed with formal registration, where upon they will receive a ration card, which provides them some measure of food security while a longer term solution can be determined.
One part of our duties with UNHCR is to walk through and monitor the camps and respond to individual and group needs. Examples include providing shaded areas for people waiting in line ups, access to water points in the vicinity of where they must wait, the installation of male and female latrines, and attempting to improve the management and organization of the registration process. Receiving an initial 21-day food ration from the World Food Program in Dagahaley refugee camp.
We frequently have face to face contact with individual refugees, assisted by a translator. This is part of the importance of prioritizing those most in need: to learn what is taking place for someone who may require extra attention. With any initial contact at the individual level, very quickly you need to discern a person's particular issue, with sensitivity of course. Always, you hear part of a person's wider narrative on the why and how they are now 'here'. And each time you learn of a person's reason for leaving their home country, and the difficulties of a weeks-long journey on foot through equatorial desert, it leaves one shell-shocked over what they have just survived as an individual, and as a family. Everyone has a difficult story, which is evidenced as to why they are here now, having committed themselves to finding security and stability in another country.
This "newly arrived" family is being afforded priority fast-tracking for registration due to some of the children in the family having additional protection concerns. As a child protection officer with UNHCR, this is one of our core activities; ensuring that those families or individuals that are extra vulnerable are identified in their initial contact with the Kenyan government or partner organizations (such as the United Nations) and, based on their needs, are effectively assisted to by specialized service providers.
The obvious priority is meeting an individual’s and family's basic needs of water, food and shelter. While the extent of needs are enormous, I am just as awe-struck at what is being delivered. The World Food Program (WFP) and partners are delivering food to over 450,000 people who are now 100% reliant on this food aid. The logistics, administration and distribution are extremely complex and subject to many considerations that are not always apparent. Another complicating factor is that more refugees are arriving than the current system can handle, and it takes time to scale-up the appropriate volume and effectiveness of response. As a result of humanitarian partners and host governments working together, much of these needs are being met, and will continue to expand and accelerate the service provision for the arriving population – for the arriving individual.
- J.G. Brouwer, Child Protection Officer, UNHCR. Dadaab Refugee Camp, Kenya. August 2011
July 22, 2011
Montreal-based Nutrition Information Management Specialist
to leave this weekend to support United Nations humanitarian response in Somalia
July 22, 2011 - OTTAWA, Ontario – At UNICEF’s request, CANADEM - a non-profit agency dedicated to advancing international peace and security - is deploying Montreal-based GIS and data management expert Robert Cissokho to Nairobi, Kenya on Sunday to assist UNICEF’s Nutrition Cluster in their emergency relief efforts in Kenya and Somalia. Dr. Cissokho is being seconded by CANADEM through funding from the Canadian International Development Agency.
In order to achieve more nutrition strategic responses with improved prioritization of available resources, Dr. Cissokho will be part of UNICEF’s nutrition cluster coordination team with the primary function of overall systems strengthening, data collection, analysis, and sharing of key information necessary for the cluster stakeholders to avoid duplication and gaps while making informed, strategic decisions.
Dr. Cissokho has previously worked in Port-au-Prince, Haiti assisting WHO-PAHO with GIS and data management in their health response while defining gaps and needs to better organize partners’ response.
About CANADEM: Established in 1996, CANADEM is a non-governmental organization that works in partnership with the United Nations, the Government of Canada, and all types of international organizations to advance peace, security and socio-economic development through the rapid mobilization and deployment of experts committed to international service. As Canada’s Civilian Reserve, CANADEM manages a roster of over 15,000 screened civilian professionals in various fields of international cooperation. For more information, please visit www.CANADEM.ca.
Robert Cissokho and CANADEM representatives are available for interviews during his deployment.
Please contact: Graham Bos – Communications Officer, CANADEM