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Somali President asks Kenya to accommodate refugees, if the World’s Largest Refugee Camp ‘Dadaab’ shuts down

The Kenyan Government has already dissolved the Department of Refugee Affairs

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Dadaab
A recent family arrived in Dadaab. Image source: Wikipedia
  • Dadaab is the world’s largest refugee camp with over 3,00,000 inhabitants
  • Kenya plans to shut down this camp citing economic and security concerns
  • This move is widely criticized by human rights groups

Dadaab is a town situated in eastern Kenya which serves as a group of refugee camps which collectively form the largest in the world. Among the many camps that this town harbors,  Dagahaley, Hagadera and Ifo are the oldest (built in 1992) and most prominent. As a second wave of refugees arrived owing to large droughts in East Africa, camps of Ifo II and Kambioos were constructed which held a capacity of around 130,000 refugees. In total, Dadaab houses 300,000 refugees, most of whom had fled Somalia in the past due to unstable political conditions and constant civil wars.

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After the mass massacre in Garissa University in April 2015, the deputy president of Kenya had announced the closure of Dadaab refugee camps. In a country that was gripped with fears of a plummeting economy and dwindling natural resources, this attack by the militant group Al-Shabab which took lives of 148 university students shook the whole country with grief and sorrow.

Government officials suspected that this terrorist activity originated in those Somali refugee camps, and hence must be shut down to diminish the Kenyans’ security concerns. The Kenyan government, which had announced it would ensure this camp shut down within three months,  softened its stance on this matter later, as the camp remains functional to this day.

Although seemingly justified, this move was widely criticized by human rights groups. Human Rights Watch, in its statement, said there was “no credible evidence” that terrorist groups had evolved from refugee settlements.

Dadaab
Refugee Shelters in Dadaab. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s regional director in East Africa, told The Independent, “This reckless decision by the Kenyan government is an abdication of its duty to protect the vulnerable and will put thousands of lives at risk.

“It could lead to the involuntary return of thousands of refugees to Somalia and other countries of origin, where their lives may still be in danger. This would be in violation of Kenya’s obligations under international law.”

Despite all of these criticisms, Kenya reiterated in April this year that it had serious plans to shut down Dabaab, as problems for the country had only worsened since last year. Somalia’s president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, became the first Somali president to visit the refugee town this week. Somalia will be one of the most affected countries if Dabaab indeed settles down in the near future.

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Hassan Sheikh Mohamud

In his speech, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud ensured the refugees he would make arrangements for basic services such as food and shelter upon their return home to Somalia. It is however, unclear who would fund these arrangements.

Kenyan Interior Secretary Joseph Nkaissery confirmed his government’s intention to shut down the 25-year-old complex, disregarding serious requests from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, to maintain its existence.

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“Kenya is committed to close the camp,” Nkaissery said.  “It is a decision we have already reached and we will jointly collaborate with the Somali government and the UNHCR on your safe return”, addressing the refugees. Supporting its decision, Kenya has already dissolved the Department of Refugee Affairs.

Kenya, however would not impose involuntary exit of refugees from its borders. Even as it plans to shut down Dadaab, Kenya is committed to the principles that its constitution is based on. Hence, government officials have said that in close cooperation with UN agencies and the Somali government, they would facilitate a safe and voluntary return of refugees to their home countries.

-by Saurabh Bodas (with inputs from VOA), an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @saurabhbodas96

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Kenya Starts Mass Vaccination of Girls against Human Papilloma Virus

President Uhuru Kenyatta termed the vaccine roll-out a major milestone in the fight

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Kenya, Vaccination, Girls
FILE - Children watch as another child is vaccinated in the town of Liboi, Kenya, July 27, 2011. Kenyan authorities on Friday launched a mass vaccination program against the human papilloma virus, or HPV. VOA

Kenyan authorities have begun a mass vaccination of girls against the human papilloma virus, HPV, which causes cervical cancer. According to the World Health Organization, the East Africa region has the highest rate of cervical cancer in the world. Kenya.

Kenya officially launched its HPV vaccination program Friday in the coastal town of Mombasa.

The vaccine will be administered free to all 10-year-old girls as part of the country’s routine immunization schedule. Girls will get the vaccine in two doses, six months apart.

President Uhuru Kenyatta termed the vaccine roll-out a major milestone in the fight against non-communicable diseases.

Kenya, Vaccination, Girls
The vaccine will be administered free to all 10-year-old girls as part of the country’s routine immunization schedule. Girls will get the vaccine in two doses, six months apart. VOA

“Access to the HPV vaccine by our girls will lead to the reduction of number of new cervical cancer cases and secure lives of our daughters and sisters,” he said. “This means that our young women who are critical to the future of our nation will be protected from early deaths.”

Kenya’s Ministry of Health says the vaccinations will cost about $7.7 million this year.

Dr. Collins Tabu, head of the National Vaccine Immunization Program in Kenya, touted the benefits of the program in a talk with reporters.

“The introduction of HPV vaccine within our setup has potential to cut back the burden of cervical cancer by close to 70 percent,” Tabu said. “If we achieve a good enough coverage, of about 80 percent.”

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He said at least seven women die every day through cervical cancer in Kenya.

“The human papilloma virus, the most common sexually transmitted disease with a prevalence of close to 50 percent within our borders, is the primary cause of more than 99 percent of all of the cervical cancers. There is a direct link, as we know today,” he said.

At least 115 other countries routinely administer the vaccine, including Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. Tabu said because of the vaccine, Rwanda has nearly eliminated cervical cancer.

Kenya has moved more slowly, possibly because of debates around the safety of vaccines.  Earlier this decade, the Catholic Church in Kenya called for a boycott of a polio vaccination drive.

Kenya, Vaccination, Girls
Kenya officially launched its HPV vaccination program Friday in the coastal town of Mombasa. Pixabay

“It’s a bit embarrassing that Kenya may be the last or second last East African country to introduce the vaccine that is supposed to protect our girls against cervical cancer,” Tabu said.

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During Friday’s launch, Kenyatta dismissed claims the HPV vaccine might be unsafe, telling the crowd, “Let us not fight science.” (VOA)