Like most buildings on the seafront in Alexandria, Egypt’s second city, the Nady el Togoreen or “Accountants Club” has seen better days. The concrete is crumbling, the paint is flaking, and the club’s two outdoor swimming pools have long since been emptied of water. Now they are filled with broken deck chairs and sunloungers.
Today, I spent the afternoon with a group of Syrian refugee women living here in Cairo. Some of them were considered vulnerable by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and were able to get small amounts of aid for food and rent. Many had children who dropped out of school in Egypt in order to provide for their families. Most had husbands in Syria whom they worried about constantly. All were hoping to go somewhere besides Egypt, but were losing faith that it could really happen.
Hungry and scared, I got up the courage to come out of our building in the morning to eat at a small restaurant on 8th Street in Eastleigh. What happened was so embarrassing. A Kenyan who was eating there immediately ran to the door and closed it before I came in. A few seconds later, the owner opened the door and told me, “Toka hapa” – “Leave here.” I walked back to my house starving.
This was the closest restaurant to our house. The Somali restaurants I sometimes visit were not open. Most of their owners and workers were spending their days in Pangani police station.
Late last week, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) for another year. The responsibilities of the mission remain largely unchanged and include protecting civilians and neutralizing armed groups. But the Council did do something new in the lengthy resolution: they made it clear that they were looking for the exit.
In December 2013, in Juba, South Sudan, fighting broke out between soldiers of the Nuer and Dinka ethnicity within the presidential guard. This fighting quickly spread throughout the country, as the Dinka aligned themselves with the country’s president, Salva Kiir, and the Nuer aligned themselves with the former vice-president, Riek Machar. Despite attempts to negotiate an end to the fighting, battles between the national army and the opposition forces continue, and the country remains incredibly insecure.
While a great deal of international attention has been given to the massive number of Syrian refugees who have crossed into Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, it is often forgotten that many Syrians – up to 300,000 according to some estimates – have made the somewhat longer journey to the nearby state of Egypt.
On Saturday, February 22, scholars, humanitarian workers, activists, and religious leaders gathered at Washington’s National Cathedral to discuss why all of us should care about environmental sustainability and climate change and how can we help the people most affected.
My colleague, Dara McLeod, and I are about to begin a mission to two neighboring countries in the center of Africa that are experiencing full-scale humanitarian crises: the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan. Fighting inside each country has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.
At the same time that the Kenyan government is ramping up pressure for Somali refugees to return home, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has released new international protection considerations for people fleeing southern and central Somalia. The guidelines highlight the continued risks that these people face and stress the need for ongoing international protection of Somali asylum-seekers.
I am sitting here in my room on a rainy Monday to write an essay about the challenges we as refugees face here in Nairobi. I just got back from school, and as I made my way home I held my breath until I reached my room. I am lucky I am here another day: safe and sound.