The power of radio helps ease the hardship of Somali refugee granny

Making a Difference, 12 June 2014

© UNHCR/D.Mwancha
Timiro Idow rests in her new shelter in Ifo 2 camp. She is surrounded by children and grandchildren.

DADAAB, Kenya, June 11 (UNHCR) In northern Kenya, a community radio station funded by UNHCR is working to help struggling refugees at camps in Dadaab, attracting donations from across the globe and support from the local population.

One story in particular, about an older Somali woman called Timiro Idow, has touched hearts everywhere, thanks to the efforts of station reporter Abdinasir.

Timiro was found stranded in the streets of Dadaab, a town 10 kilometres away from the Ifo 2 camp where she lives. Tired and scared, with one daughter and six grandchildren back home, her plight was brought to light by Abdinasir, whose radio show aims to highlight the daily struggles of the hundreds of thousands of people living in the world's biggest refugee complex.

Abdinasir went to Timiro's aid, amazed that she had managed to walk all the way from the camp to the town. "She could not even speak," a station spokesperson revealed, "but later when we made her comfortable, she began lamenting that life back in the camps was getting too tough and she was not willing to go back unless she was given better food supplies and a good house."

The determined grandmother told Abdinasir: "I am now old. I have repeatedly urged my daughter to take me back to Somalia, but she has not taken any action. At my age I need to be at home, not in camps where there is nothing."

Profoundly moved, Abdinasir took to the airwaves, recounting Timiro's struggle and sharing it through social media platforms. The response was overwhelming. It took just two days for Timiro's daughter to trace her and donations to start pouring in.

A non-governmental organization based in Kenya's capital of Nairobi led the charge, with a donation of US$300, as well as a promise to continue supplying Timiro with food and pocket money. Further afield, concerned well-wishers from the United Kingdom and Canada have also been sending money for her upkeep.

Today, Timiro and her loved ones are living in a better shelter as they await construction of their new house. Her daughter, who has lived with Timiro since 2011 when they fled conflict and famine in Somalia, says the donations are helping them a great deal. "UNHCR usually provides us with food and other relief items but it's never sufficient. I am so happy that Abdinasir's efforts have helped my mother. I can now concentrate more on raising my children."

Meanwhile, Abdinasir continues to raise awareness of those in need. As a Kenyan whose hometown has hosted refugees for 23 years, he is finally achieving his dream. "Whenever teachers in school asked me what I wanted to do in my adult life, I told them I wanted to help refugees," he said. Now, with the help of UNHCR, his radio show known as gargaar, a Somali word for "support," does just that.

And at last Timiro has a smile on her face. For this granny from Somalia, living in a Dadaab camp, she has never felt as lucky as she does today.

By Duke Mwancha in Dadaab, Kenya

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Dadaab: World's Biggest Refugee Camp Turns 20

Last year, 2011, was the 20th anniversary of the world's biggest refugee camp - Dadaab in north-eastern Kenya. The anniversary is a reminder of the suffering of the Somali people, who have been seeking safety and shelter for two decades. UNHCR, which manages the Dadaab complex, set up the first camps there between October 1991 and June 1992. This followed a civil war in Somalia that in 1991 had culminated in the fall of Mogadishu and overthrow of the Siad Barre regime.

The original intention was for the three Dadaab camps to host up to 90,000 people. However today they host more than 463,000 people, including some 10,000 third-generation refugees born in Dadaab to parents who were also born there.

Last year's famine in Somalia saw more than 150,000 new arrivals, a third of the camp's current population. Overcrowding and stretched resources as well as security concerns have all had an impact on the camp, but UNHCR continues to provide life-saving assistance.

Dadaab: World's Biggest Refugee Camp Turns 20

Dire Times in Dadaab

Angelina Jolie's visit to Dadaab in north-east Kenya puts a spotlight on the overcrowded camp complex, home to tens of thousands of refugees.

When UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visited Dadaab in north-east Kenya on September 12, 2009, she saw first-hand some of the tough conditions that tens of thousands of refugees must live in. The overcrowded three-camp complex is home to more than 285,000 mainly Somali refugees, making it the largest refugee settlement in the world. The camps were established in the early 1990s and were intended for a maximum of 90,000 people. Up to 7,000 people are now arriving every month to escape continuing conflict in Somalia. Jolie talked to residents about their daily life and their exile. These images show her meetings with the refugees of Dadaab and show some of the conditions they live in. Aside from overcrowding, they face water shortages, crammed classrooms, health problems, the coming rainy season and a range of other difficulties. UNHCR hopes new land will be allocated soon for the new arrivals.

Dire Times in Dadaab

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

Over the weekend, UNHCR with the help of the US military began an emergency airdrop of some 200 tonnes of relief supplies for thousands of refugees badly hit by massive flooding in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya.

In a spectacular sight, 16 tonnes of plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, tents and blankets, were dropped on each run from the C-130 transport plane onto a site cleared of animals and people. Refugees loaded the supplies on trucks to take to the camps.

Dadaab, a three-camp complex hosting some 160,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia, has been cut off from the world for a month by heavy rains that washed away the road connecting the remote camps to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Air transport is the only way to get supplies into the camps.

UNHCR has moved 7,000 refugees from Ifo camp, worst affected by the flooding, to Hagadera camp, some 20 km away. A further 7,000 refugees have been moved to higher ground at a new site, called Ifo 2.

Posted in December 2006

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