Bono Discusses Possible Solutions for Dadaab

“You do exist. We need to make things better. Refugees must never be asked to prioritise their needs.”

Dadaab Refugee Camp – UNHCR hosted David Hewson, commonly known as Bono in Dadaab Refugee Camps. Bono is the lead singer of the popular U2 band and Co-Founder of ONE Campaign – a campaigning and advocacy organization of more than seven million people around the world including three million people from Africa, taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.

“You do exist. We need to make things better. Refugees must never be asked to prioritise their needs.”

Bono’s visit started with a courtesy call with the Area Deputy County Commissioner, Mr. William Langat, followed by a briefing with UNHCR and Partners. UNHCR Head of Operations in Dadaab Ahmed Baba Fall and World Food Programme Head of Sub-Office pointed out that there has been a general decrease in funding for refugee operations in Dadaab.

Bono on his part said that the visit was important because it helped him understand the Dadaab situation better. He noted that the ongoing management of the refugees is based on the assumption that the situation is temporary and that the solution for displacement would be found soon. However, this is not the case because the refugee situation is evolving beyond humanitarian aid.

“The budgeting system needs to be changed from annual budgeting to at least a 3 year budgeting plan or projection in order to enable agencies plan effectively and meet the needs of refugees in a more sustainable way,” he added. Bono also noted that it is important for donors to honor their pledges so as to ensure that the funding gets to Dadaab on time.


Bono holding meeting with the refugee leaders at Ifo, Dadaab. Photo/Emmanuel Jambo

Speaking with the youth and community leaders, Bono emphasised on the importance of telling the Dadaab story. He revealed his interest in sharing the message with the entire world since there’s not enough media coverage on the situation in Dadaab. “You do exist. We need to make things better. Refugees must never be asked to prioritise their needs,” he said.

Bono, who was accompanied by his family and ONE Campaign team visited the Young Education Pack (YEP) Centre in Ifo. Ifo is the oldest of the five (5) Dadaab Camps.

YEP is a vocational training project managed by UNHCR and its partner, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). The centre’s main objective is to ensure that youth are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to become financially independent, improve their livelihoods and enable them to become productive members of their communities.

The project which combines literacy and numeracy skills, life skills with vocational skills training benefits refugees and Kenyans in the Dadaab area aged 15 to 24. Bono indicated that the ONE Campaign team will ensure that the centre is better resourced owing to its resourcefulness to the youth in Dadaab. Bono was concerned by the fact that refugee youth acquired skills which they do not utilize beyond the camps for livelihood opportunities.


Refugee youth at the YEP Centre sharing their experiences with Bono. Photo/Emmanuel Jambo

The overarching message throughout subsequent meetings with the youth and community leaders in Ifo was that education in the camps needed to be improved.

“As refugees, we lose our dignity in many ways and this makes us very vulnerable. Our main wish is to have an improved education system, including opportunities to pursue higher education,” said Ahmed Abdullahi, one of the youth leaders. “There is restricted movement for refugees and this hinders our access to higher education,” he added.

Bono expressed his worries regarding the protracted situation of Dadaab as a refugee settlement. He undertook to advocate for a better approach in handling the Dadaab situation.

The youth expressed hope of returning home as future leaders to a peaceful Somalia. He gave them a message of hope about the future of Somalia. “The first priority should be to ensure that the Somalia situation is fixed, but this is the most difficult to attain immediately.”