Kenya: Supporting the third generation of refugees
In Kenya, Terre des hommes (Tdh) protects Somali refugee children in the Dadaab camps. Now that the government has closed the Kambioos section of the complex and encourages voluntary returns to Somalia, Tdh supports children in the Hagadera section. Our ambassador Xavier Colin, former RTS journalist, was on the spot and shared the story of Salaba with us.
This is one of many individual stories that Terre des hommes (Tdh) is confronted with in the camp of Hagadera in Dadaab. Among 100,000 people in this refugee camp, lives Salaba. This 26 year old Somali woman has four children; her last child, little Hamza, is 2 years old. Her husband left the camp a year ago, went back to Somalia, and was killed in an ambush. So Salaba is left alone, in charge of her family, hoping for an education for her children, and is so happy that Tdh is providing a safe place for the little girl and the three boys.
Salaba, with hundreds of refugee families like hers, knows every detail about the Tdh child protection activities: thanks to them, girls and boys are protected from abuse, violence, exploitation and neglect. In a safe area which is in complete contrast with the actual climate of violence spread throughout the huge Dadaab compound, Tdh supports more than 500 children, provides them with schooling, playgrounds, activities like reading, drawing, singing and all other disciplines that helps this young generation increase their knowledge and grow up with dignity.
What do those children and their parents (if any) think of the Tdh presence and activities in the camp? Well, we’ve asked them. Nico, a 15 year old boy, says: "Not only do we go to school, but we have pride in making sure that all the children we know do the same". And Aylan adds: "The truth is, some families have left the camp and returned to Somalia; but eventually (if still alive) came back to Dadaab because their children would never have a chance to go to school in a country still at war in most of its provinces".
This opens the door to a crucial, actual and yet-not-resolved issue: Should Dadaab, which has been until recently the biggest refugee camp in the world with a population of up to 480,000 Somali citizens (245,000 nowadays), be closed, as the Kenyan authorities have expressed the need and necessity? Or is it discriminatory, as the Kenyan High Court expressed its view? Should the refugees accept the volunteer repatriation policy motivated by a financial grant ($200 per person) and other incentives? But, as Tdh staff expresses its view: "How do we know what is exactly the situation, future and destiny of all those «returnees»?"
Salaba, also, is worried about the possibility of having to leave the camp, whether on a volunteer basis or not. Her children, too. When I met them and their friends - the girls appearing in their so colorful national dresses-, that young generation was so proud to sing the national Somali anthem, a tribute to a country which they have never seen and may never encounter. For the time being, their home is Dadaab, that particular refugee camp which has been lasting for more than 26 years. Salaba is perfectly aware of that dreadful situation: her parents came here as refugees in 1991. She was born in the camp soon after. Her children, too, were born here. A third generation of refugees!
A third generation that Terre des hommes, with its values and commitments, is so concerned about, giving those young people as much as possible: help, hope and dignity. Exactly what Salaba wants for herself. But mostly for her children. And for all the children that Terre des hommes supports.
Xavier Colin, Terre des hommes ambassador
Photo credit: © Melanie Rouiller