“Kenya and UNHCR have been like our parents for the last 26 years. We continue to request donors and other well-wishers to continue funding Dadaab so that we can continue to receive vital services like maternal and child healthcare.”
DADAAB, Kenya – Refugees came out in large numbers in Dadaab to mark World Refugee Day on 20 June.
Protecting refugees and a continued search for durable solutions to the refugee crisis took centre stage. In song and dance, poems and speeches, refugees pleaded with the international community to continue supporting them in their quest for a normal and better life.
“Kenya and UNHCR have been like our parents for the last 26 years. We continue to request donors and other well-wishers to continue funding Dadaab so that we can continue to receive vital services like maternal and child healthcare,” said Mama Rukia, who lives in Ifo 1, a part of Dadaab.
Across all the camps, school children, the disabled and minority groups prepared a variety of activities and performances. Some of them touched on voluntary repatriation to Somalia, others on the relocation of refugees to Kalobeyei settlement, in Turkana, north western Kenya, as a possible durable solution for Dadaab refugees. The Kalobeyei settlement is a new location where refugees and the host community live a more integrated life.
In Ifo, children of Friends School had a poem on peaceful coexistence. The participants made up of mainly minority community members said this was the only way refugees could fulfil their dreams.
‘Together we can succeed,’ they recited in a moving choral verse.
Unity Primary School in a part of Dadaab called Dagahaley performed a play called Dhib-unoqoshada dalka hooyo (return to our home country) which looked at the pain of returnees missing out on education opportunities back in Somalia. They appealed to the authorities to give them a chance to complete their education before voluntarily repatriating back to Somalia.
In Hagadera another part of the camp, the Member of County Assembly, Hon. Mustafa, appealed to donors, UNHCR and its partners to continue to work together to eradicate cholera from Hagadera.
“Please continue providing sufficient water for refugees as this is very important for hygiene purposes. More classrooms should also be constructed to decongest classrooms as so many learners, in their quest for education, are forced to study in already full classrooms,” said Hon. Mustafa.
But perhaps the most touching performance of all was by Bapwoch Omot Oman, a 23 year old refugee from Gambella in Ethiopia, who lives in Ifo. Through his poem ‘Why?’ he moved the audience through a series of rhetorical questions that sought answers on the refugee crises in the world and the lack of solutions.
Why the fighting?
Why the killing?
The ground is slippery with our own blood.
RIP became a song that was whispered in my ear.
Children hold signs to show their support for refugees. UNHCR/B.Rono
Dignitaries and other guests hold signs to show their support for refugees. UNHCR/B.Rono
Football team from Ifo poses for a photo before their match to mark World Refugee Day. UNHCR/B.Rono
Friends School pupils from Ifo perform their poem on community inter-existence. UNHCR/B.Rono
Kenya Red Cross and DMO Combined basketball players before a game to mark World Refugee Day. UNHCR/B.Rono
School children perform at World Refugee Day celebrations UNHCR/B.Rono
The Somalia national anthem is sang. UNHCR/B.Rono
The audience was so moved that they requested for one more performance of the same at the end of the celebrations.
In her speech, the Deputy Head of Operations, UNHCR Dadaab, Ms Aicha Limam, recounted the recent flooding in Dadaab in which refugees lost possessions and had their shelter destroyed.
‘UNHCR is proud to say that through collaboration with partners, normalcy is returning after the floods.’
The Dadaab sub-county Deputy County Commissioner Mr. Haron Kamau also attended the celebrations and read a speech from Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary of Interior Hon. Rtd. Major General Joseph Nkaissery. In his speech the Cabinet Secretary assured refugees and others present that Kenya would abide by its international obligations and treaties despite a drop in funding.
‘Our support for refugees’ welfare remains firm despite socio-economic challenges that are hobbling efforts to provide a new lifeline to displaced people globally,’ read the Cabinet Secretary’s speech.
In the evening, a basketball game was held between Kenya Red Cross and Dadaab Main Office (DMO) Combined teams, with DMO Combined narrowly winning 34-33. Later, humanitarians had the opportunity to sign the #WithRefugees petition which calls on world leaders to ensure: every refugee child gets an education; every refugee family has somewhere safe to live and; every refugee can work or learn new skills to support their families.
World Refugee Day took place a day after new figures were released by UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency showing that at the end of 2016, the global refugee population had risen to 65.6 million people – some 300,000 more than a year earlier.
The four refugee camps that make up Dadaab (Hagadera, Ifo, Ifo 2 and Dagahaley) have a combined population of 243,915 persons.