|Refugees from Somalia in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. There are currently more than 750,000 Somali refugees living in eastern Africa, mostly in Kenya and Ethiopia. (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)|
|"We have been serving Somalis for many years and are aware of their needs. We are preparing to help increased flows of traumatized survivors restore normality to their lives. This is a long-term commitment, as psychosocial and education services are key to helping bring stability to refugees' lives. " ~ JRS Eastern Africa Director Fr. Frido Pflueger, S.J.|
(Nairobi, Rome, Washington, D.C.) July 26, 2011 — In the midst of one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent times affecting the Horn of Africa, Jesuit Refugee Service has announced plans to step up ongoing work for Somalis in Ethiopia and Kenya, and establish new services in the former.
"We have been serving Somalis for many years and are aware of their needs. We are preparing to help increased flows of traumatized survivors restore normality to their lives. This is a long-term commitment, as psychosocial and education services are key to helping bring stability to refugees' lives. As our budget is already stretched, we urge the public to help us out in whatever way possible," said JRS Eastern Africa Director Fr. Frido Pflueger, S.J.
Years of conflict and sporadic droughts have displaced nearly two million Somalis and the figures are rising quickly. As of July 20, more than 120,000 Somalis had fled into Kenya and Ethiopia. This month as many as 3,000 refugees have been arriving daily into the two countries. About 11 million people are believed to have been affected by the worst drought in more than half a century. If action is not taken immediately, famine will spread to the rest of southern Somalia.
"While the number of Somali refugees served by JRS at the moment is relatively low, the types of services offered, such as counseling, are resource intensive. If, as expected, JRS begins offering education services in Dollo Ado camp in Ethiopia, this number will increase dramatically. We are now seeking resources for this new intervention," said Fr. Pflueger.
The current crisis is the consequence of three overlapping and intersecting problems: extreme drought; the lack of a functioning central government in Somalia; and the inability of aid agencies to gain access to south central Somalia controlled by the al-Shabab militant group. This is compounded by rising food prices throughout the region, hurting already vulnerable populations with further devastating losses.
Countries in the region are putting measures in place to cope with the situation. Kenya recently announced the expansion of one of three Dadaab camps for new refugees, and Ethiopia is currently expanding the Dollo Ado camp in the southeast of the country.
However, there are limits to what these countries can do, as they are already seriously affected themselves by the drought. There are currently more than 750,000 Somali refugees living in eastern Africa, mostly in Kenya and Ethiopia. Unless the international community can deliver humanitarian aid inside Somalia, Somalis are likely to continue suffering at home and fleeing, where possible, to neighboring countries.
JRS in Ethiopia
JRS teams currently assist nearly 4,000 vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers in Addis Ababa, providing educational, recreational, training and psychosocial support services, as well as emergency assistance. Learn more about JRS in Ethiopia here.
So far the number of Somalis arriving into Addis Ababa has remained relatively constant, but JRS teams are making contingency plans to increase support for an influx into the programme. JRS is in advanced negotiations with the UN refugee agency (UNCHR) to begin providing psychosocial and education services in Dollo Ado camp, now hosting more than 100,000 Somalis.
JRS in Kenya
JRS teams in Nairobi and Kakuma camp currently respond to the needs of 12,500 vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees, offering educational support, food and non-food items and financial, medical and psychosocial assistance, including the training of counsellors and mental health workers. Women facing gender violence also find protection at the JRS safe haven.
JRS projects are seeing large numbers of Somali refugees in both Kakuma camp and Nairobi: now nearly 100,000 between both places. These mainly single mothers face particular difficulties due to large family size and the lack of support networks. Traumatized by conflict, gender violence and in need of culturally specific services, Somali refugees are being provided with intensive counseling and educational support. Without assistance, they and their children face destitution.
Situations like this have become very common in Somalia. Hassan (not his real name) fled Somalia at 10 years of age after his parents were killed and his sister kidnapped by gunmen looking for food. After days of traveling on foot and then, fortunately, by boat, he finally escaped Somalia. Hassan is now in Kakuma.
"JRS teams are also welcoming families fleeing the forced recruitment of their children, some seriously disfigured; for instance, one 16-year old boy had his hand amputated after he refused to join al-Shabab. Other families have had to take longer routes to avoid al-Shabab, consequently their children die from hunger or face exploitation at the hands of people posing as good Samaritans," said Fr. Pflueger.
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