The Norwegian Refugee Council is calling on the world to increase aid for Somali children displaced by conflict and famine.
Last summer the world was stunned to learn of tens of thousands of Somali children starving to death. A severe drought had struck Somalia and East Africa, causing massive food shortages. Conflict within Somalia made the situation far worse by preventing aid from reaching the needy.
Thousands of children and their families were able to flee the worst hunger and conflict areas. Many of these “children of famine” found refuge in camps in Dadaab, Kenya.
A view of a section of Dadaab refugee camp, currently home to over 450,000 refugees, the majority of them from Somalia. (UNHCR photo)
Somali refugees need the basics of food, water, and shelter. They also need education to learn and develop the skills needed to get out of these camps and build a life. NRC issued a report in May about the lack of educational resources at the Dadaab camps.
Dadaab does not have enough school facilities and teachers. There are 221,000 school-age children in the refugee camps but only 57,000 are enrolled in school. Funding is needed to build up the schools.
NRC Regional Director Hassan Khaire says, “The universal right to education applies also for refugee children in Dadaab, but only in theory. The international community has to step up and demonstrate the importance of investing in the development and future of young Somali refugees.”
NRC is partnering with other organizations in developing accelerated learning programs to help children “catch up” and get their education back on track.
For those who are already enrolled in school at Dadaab, there is the problem of staying the course. The NRC report says, “The number of students who actually complete school is much lower, as the drop out rates are very high especially for girls.” The challenge is getting kids into school in East Africa and then keeping them there to finish their education.
School feeding programs run by the UN World Food Programme and other groups are vital especially with malnutrition being such a threat to the refugees.
Astrid Sehl, an NRC officer, recently took some time to answer a few questions on how the world can help the children of the East Africa famine.
What is being done to increase the number of schools and teachers in the Dadaab refugee camp?
UN and non-governmental organizations are doing what they can to build more schools and educate more teachers in Dadaab – e.g. the joint education strategy (accelerated learning program). However, as always, funding, when it comes to crises and education, is very limited, and a lot more should be done!
Could take-home rations be added to any existing school feeding in order to reduce the dropout rate?
Yes, take-home rations are a good idea. For the time being, we provide school feeding and we are investigating funding opportunities for take-home rations (or introducing school gardens, where the kids are taught how to grow vegetables and they can bring the knowledge and produce home).
For children displaced inside Somalia, has NRC been able to reach them with educational materials?
Yes, we have large educational programs for internally displaced persons across Somalia – in Somaliland, Puntland, and South Central. So we’re supporting thousands of internally displaced children and youth with education and skills training, and we train teachers and build schools – but again – more efforts are required to meet children’s right to education.
Displaced children in Somaliland are deprived of basic rights such as access to clean water, food, health services, and education. Photo: NRC/Astrid Sehl