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Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp is the largest of its kind in the world: a sprawling, jam-packed community housing nearly half a million vulnerable Somali refugees. During a visit this week to one section of the camp, known as Kambioos, my Refugees International colleague and I met a young Somali man named Ahmed who had just arrived by bus from Nairobi.
Since December, when the Government of Kenya announced that all city-dwelling refugees must move into camps, the situation for tens of thousands refugees has become unbearable. But the good news today is that the Kenyan High Court has granted a temporary order prohibiting the government from implementing its plans.
My colleague Melanie Teff and I have begun a two-week mission in Kenya to assess conditions for Somali refugees. Though we are both eager to get underway, I wish our mission was taking place under different circumstances.
This is an extremely difficult time to be a Somali in Kenya, with the government announcing last month that refugees in urban areas will have to leave the cities and report to refugee camps. The government has also shut down the registration of refugees in urban areas and instructed aid agencies to suspend urban refugee services.
This week, an RI team will depart for North Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where more than 500,000 people have been displaced by fighting since April. The mission comes shortly after the fall of the provincial capital of Goma, and with 130,000 people now displaced in Goma and its environs, there could not be a more important time to visit the region.
The French military intervention in Mali is just a few days old, and there is plenty of uncertainty about the operation’s strategy and potential outcomes. But one thing is clear: as this campaign escalates, more civilians are being forced to flee their homes – exacerbating a humanitarian crisis that has plagued Mali for more than a year. Governments and aid agencies in the region must be prepared for the worst and take steps immediately to assist this new wave of displaced Malians....
By any standard, one billion is a daunting number. How many grains of sand is one billion? How long would it take to eat one billion M&Ms? For policymakers and others who deal with national budgets on a daily basis, the concept of ‘one billion’ may not be so hard to grasp. But for most of us it borders on the incomprehensible.
The day Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast, I was in Mali, a country in West Africa’s Sahel region. As a native New Yorker, I was stunned and dismayed to see pictures of the flooded streets and tunnels of Manhattan, of destroyed homes and schools on Staten Island, and of thousands of my fellow New Yorkers displaced and in shelters. But I was even more struck by the indiscriminate nature of what I was witnessing both in Mali (one of the world’s poorest countries) and the United States (one of its richest): massive humanitarian emergencies resulting from more extreme weather.