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Kenya: Dadaab refugees making our lives a misery

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Source: Kenya Daily Nation
Country: Kenya, Somalia

In Summary

  • The sprawling settlements that dot the landscape of Dadaab area, and the ever-burgeoning number of refugee communities that populate them, has over the years, negatively affected the host communities.

  • The UNHCR has shown great irresponsibility by keeping quiet as the destruction has been going on. Ironically, it has one of the biggest offices at Dadaab.

By Abdullahi Diriye

Kenya’s continued support for humanitarian efforts in the Horn of Africa is both anchored in, and justified by, our international obligations and the spirit of solidarity with fellow Africans displaced from their homelands by wars.

However, along with these noble efforts, the Kenyan State must also ensure that the lives, security, interest and well-being of its own citizens, who suffer from the refugees’ presence, are safeguarded.

As host to the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab, in which over 500,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia, have lived there for well over two decades now, the neighbouring Kenyan communities continue to suffer serious socio-economic, environmental and security challenges, which call for urgent intervention.

The sprawling settlements that dot the landscape of Dadaab area, and the ever-burgeoning number of refugee communities that populate them, has over the years, negatively affected the host communities.

The already scarce resources, fragile nomadic-pastoral lifestyle and the often volatile security situation in the region, have all been made worse by a refugee population whose continued presence is increasingly burdensome, and whose basic needs are largely un-met by a donor community that is, apparently, fatigued and under-resourced.

Two key concerns in this regard are security and environmental degradation through deforestation.

Over the years, sections of the refugee population have been engaging in unrestricted harvesting of trees and shrubs. This they do, not only to meet their energy needs, but also for construction of shelter and for sale.

This has been happening for more than two decades. Unmitigated destruction of the already scanty vegetation has led to catastrophic consequences. The worst affected areas are the three host constituencies — Fafi, Dadaab and Wajir South — whose land is fast transforming into a desert.

GREAT IRRESPONSBILITY

Sadly, successive governments have turned a blind eye to the problem. Interestingly, the forestry department that is mandated to save the ecosystem has offices in each of the counties affected.

Equally blameworthy is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, whose responsibility it is to care for refugees. The UNHCR has shown great irresponsibility by keeping quiet as the destruction has been going on. Ironically, it has one of the biggest offices at Dadaab.

The main reason that drives the refugee community to destroy our environment is because UNHCR is not providing enough to cater for their basic needs. It appears its senior staff are comfortable with the refugees staying in Kenya forever. How else do you explain their casual handling of the crisis?

As an elected representative of a huge population whose lives and livelihoods have been adversely affected by the refugee presence, I am demanding that the environmental destruction cease immediately, and appropriate measures be taken to remedy the situation.

In the short term, the UNHCR must urgently institute alternative sources of energy for refugees.

The more than 50 boreholes drilled in the refugee camps by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and its partner agencies, are depleting the water resource as the aquifer is not recharged at the same rate as the amount of water extracted daily.

Mr Diriye is the MP for Wajir South.


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