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Emergency Appeal for Dadaab and Crisis in East Africa


Over two years of drought in the Horn of Africa have brought on a crisis that leaves 9.6 million people in the region surrounding Somalia and Kenya in need of food assistance, according to the UN World Food Program. Responding to the call of world leaders including USAID, the UN, and Pope Benedict XVI, AVSI is still seeking donations from around the world to face the dire need.

For AVSI, the emergency is defined not by the crippling numbers, but by the faces of the Somali refugees fleeing the drought being served by the camp in Dadaab, Kenya, where AVSI—already a stable presence in Kenya since 1989--has been working since 2009. AVSI’s role in the camp, which currently hosts over 440,000 refugees, is predominately through educational activities, including teacher formation and school support in collaboration with Mount Kenya University and the Permanent Centre for Education. This year Leo Capobianco, AVSI Representative in Kenya, describes the situation in the camp as unlike anything he has seen in his 20 years in Africa.

“It is a grave situation,” Capobianco says. “Every day between 1,400 and 1,500 refugees arrive from Somalia. Among them are families who have walked for 20 days. Some have lost children along the way, have been attacked by hyenas or other vicious animals and have not eaten for days. We who have been working in the camps for years now find it difficult to stay in front of this human tragedy. How can we look them in the eyes and try to meet their great needs? For the moment we can only respond to their most basic needs and pray with them.”


As the ever-difficult conditions of this influx of people transplanted from their homes become more strained, educational activities may not seem the most urgent, but are actually key in improving the quality of life and in increasing security, in particular that of children. These activities provide safe places for children in the immediate sense, and carry long-term benefits in promoting peaceful and creative relationships among refugees, whether they are new arrivals or long-time residents in the camp, and among those who arrive from different regions and backgrounds.   Further, education for their children is one of the first requests of many parents who arrive.

AVSI is adding safe spaces for the youngest children and building provisional classrooms for recreational and socialization initiatives that welcome anyone from the youngest children to teens. The establishment of 4 new schools and 15 smaller educational centers is now underway as part of a recently-approved project that will also provide for the corresponding materials necessary to serve 7,110 children. These projects are funded in part through the UN agency for refugees (UNHCR), UNICEF and the U.S. State Department's Population, Refugees, and Migration Bureau (PRM), and in the light of the situation of crisis and famine funds from private donations help make reinforced efforts possible.

AVSI's long-term work in the camp continues in the programs to train and certify teachers to meet growing demand in light of the average teacher to student ration, which is 1:113. Between August and November 2011, 210 teachers were enrolled in training to help meet a goal of 570 teachers to be placed teaching in Dadaab by August 2012.

AVSI-USA shares in the AVSI effort and is confident it will find both existing and new supporters will make a special effort to give in this time of need.


Online using Paypal: Through, just click on the Donate button to the left; or

By check: Make payable to AVSI-USA and send to AVSI-USA: 529 14th Street NW, Suite 994, Washington, DC 20045

*Please indicate “Dadaab emergency” as your reason for donating.

For further reading:

-See the USAID map of where AVSI is working in Kenya

-Read articles from the field by AVSI staff on
1) July 22, 2011
; 2) July 29, 2011; 3) August 5, 20114) Sept. 6, 2011 ; 5) Sept. 17, 2011;

6) Oct. 17, 2011

-AVSI-USA Description of Educational Activities in Dadaab

-See more pictures of AVSI’s work in Dadaab