World Humanitarian Day: UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency, staff in Dadaab refugee camp reaffirm commitment to serving the displaced
Dr. Orkhan Nasibov, originally from Azerbaijan works as Senior Public Health Officer in Dadaab for nearly five years. © UNHCR/A.Nasrullah
August 19 marks World Humanitarian Day. It’s a day dedicated to paying tribute to humanitarian workers, some of whom risk their lives in humanitarian service. There are approximately 1,000 humanitarian workers in Dadaab working for over 30 organisations including over 200 work for the UN Refugee Agency.
When the civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991, a large scale humanitarian crisis developed across the country. Tens of thousands of Somalis fled across the border into Kenya. That was the beginning of the Dadaab Refugee Camp some 25 years ago.
Moulid Hirsi, Assistant Field Officer at UNHCR in Dadaab was there. He’s one UNHCR’s longest serving members of staff.
“I remember when people were arriving in 1992. They were weak, they were exhausted, and they were carrying almost nothing. It was in a town called Liboi near the Kenya-Somalia border. Due to the work of humanitarian workers then and now, I have to say the lives of refugees were not only saved, but greatly improved.”
“I’m happy to see today some of those children who were carried on their backs by their parents into Kenya, have grown up in a peaceful place.”
On World Humanitarian Day, Moulid says he’s loved working and serving refugees over the years.
“I’m happy to see today some of those children who were carried on their backs by their parents into Kenya, have grown up in a peaceful place. But not just a peaceful place, a place where they have received an education and have opportunities to develop. Some of them are standing on their own two feet”.
Moulid Hirsi, has been working with UNHCR since 1992 when refugees fleeing the civil war in Somalia started to cross the border into Kenya. © UNHCR/A.Nasrullah
Habibo Abdirahman fled Somalia with her family in 1992. She is now the Chairlady for Dagahaley camp of Dadaab where 69,000 refugees live. © UNHCR/A.Nasrullah
Life has not been easy for refugees in Dadaab many refugees say. Some say due to Kenyan government policy of encampment, others say the instability and uncertainty about the situation in Somalia has left them in years of limbo. The situation has led to a long and protracted refugee situation in Dadaab where some refugees have lived for more than 25 years.
“UNHCR and other humanitarian organisation staff have helped me in my personal development. My children are attending the same school where I studied.”
Refugees like 39-year-old Habibo Abdirahman, who arrived in Dadaab as an 11-year-old when her family fled violence in Somaila. Habibo has grown up in the Dadaab. She’s managed to complete her primary education, and gotten married, and she’s also the Chairperson of one of the refugee committees of the 4 camps that make up Dadaab. On World Humanitarian Day she says….
“Life has been and can be very hard in the camps. I have to say that without the help of the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, and others, my life would have been different. I would have faced serious problems. Without this support we would not have water, food, medical assistance in many many instances, so I am incredibly grateful for the work of humanitarian workers here”.
“UNHCR and other humanitarian organisation staff have helped me in my personal development. My children are attending the same school where I studied. Imagine how much has been done to help me, my family, and all of us refugees here”.
“I feel satisfied and blessed to have the opportunity of helping refugees in their medical needs.”
Dr. Orkhan Nasibov, originally from Azerbaijan works as Senior Public Health Officer in Dadaab, and has been here for nearly five years. Another dedicated member of staff, he says he’s grateful for the appreciation shown by refugees like Habibo. Dr Nasibov has dealt with many health issues over the years serving the displaced. He’s currently helping refugees in Dadaab affected by a recent outbreak of cholera.
“On World Humanitarian Day I want to say I believe I am in the right place at the right time for helping the many displaced and needy here. I feel satisfied and blessed to have the opportunity of helping refugees in their medical needs.”
Humanitarian workers are serving 242,384 refugees and asylum seekers in Dadaab. 96 percent of the refugees are from Somalia. The first camp was established in 1991, when refugees fleeing the civil war in Somalia started to cross the border into Kenya. A second large influx occurred in 2011, when some 130,000 refugees arrived, fleeing drought and famine in southern Somalia.