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Update on the AVSI Responses to Crisis in Dadaab Camp
Tuesday, 23 August 2011 18:45

As the number of refugees at the Dadaab camp swells to 380,000, including 40,000 who arrived in the last month, many signs make it clear that the need for aid in the Horn of Africa is as urgent as ever. On Wednesday, August 3, 2011, the UN increased the number of regions of Somalia in a declared state of famine from two to five, adding the Afgoye corridor, the capital Mogadishu, and the Middle Shabelle region. In Kenya, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) transferred 10,500 recently-arrived Somali refugees to the Ifo extension of the camp in a continued relocation effort to address growing numbers.

To meet the needs of the influx of refugees, a large percentage of which are children, AVSI continues to expand its educational activities in the camp, where it has been working in partnership with UNHCR since 2009. As the ever-difficult conditions of these people transplanted from their homes become more strained, those working in the field are surprised to find that what many parents continue to ask for is guaranteed education for their children. Besides responding to this request, educational activities are key in improving the quality of life and in increasing security, in particular that of children.

In this moment of intensified need, AVSI is adding safe spaces for the youngest children and building provisional classrooms for recreational and socialization initiatives that welcome any children and teens. Funds from private donations help make these reinforced efforts possible.

AVSI’s long-term work in the camp continues in the programs to renovate schools and to train and certify teachers to meet growing demand. The teacher to student ratio averages 1:113. These projects are also funded through the U.S. State Department’s Population, Refugees, Migration Bureau (PRM).

Amidst the media attention and the crisis situation, the heart of AVSI’s work continues to be the question of the persons who are involved. AVSI staff Maria Li Gobbi writes in a report from the field for, “We are in a difficult situation that calls for a large effort from public opinion in the world. But we also need a new way, a more human way, to look at these tens of thousands of faces that crowd the gates of the camp every day. To not allow the hunger and thirst to erase that glimmer of dignity that still shines in their eyes. The same dignity that pushes Kalar [a resident of the camp who volunteers to help distribute water] to get up every morning to help those that, like him a year ago, arrive with nothing.”

Another reminder not to forget the need of our fellow men and women came in the second appeal of Pope Benedict XVI, who used strong words in his address on July 31, 2011, encouraging the world to open their hearts to a fraternal compassion for all people.

"It is inadmissible to be indifferent in the face of the tragedy of the hungry and thirsty,” the Pope said. "Our thoughts go out to our brothers and sisters in the Horn of Africa, who are now suffering the dramatic consequences of famine, exacerbated by war and the lack of strong institutions.”


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Read more:

Francesco Calcagno from the field on

Maria Li Gobbi articles from the field on
1) July 22, 2011
;   2) July 29, 2011; 3) August 5, 2011
4) Sept. 6, 2011 ; 5) Sept. 17, 2011

UN declares famine in another three areas of Somalia

USAID map of where AVSI is working in Dadaab

AVSI-USA First Appeal: Emergency Appeal for Crisis in East Africa

AVSI-USA Description of Educational Activities in Dadaab

See more pictures of AVSI’s work in Dadaab