By Ninja Taprogge,

    CARE Emergency Communications Officer in Dadaab More than 275,000[1] refugees are living in Dadaab, the biggest refugee camp in the world in Kenya.

    Here is what you need to know.

    1. Dadaab is not a usual refugee camp, it has five sectors and is more likely a small city Established in 1991, Dadaab is the biggest refugee camp in the world. Originally constructed for 90,000 people fleeing civil war in Somalia the camp would eventually host over 460,000 refugees, when one of the worst droughts ever recorded hit East Africa in 2011. Today, more than 275,000 refugees live in five camps, around 95 percent from Somalia and the rest from South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Burundi and Uganda among others. Each of the camps is divided into different blocks according to nationality. The two biggest camps are Hagadera and Dagahaley with a population of nearly 150,000 followed by Ifo and the two newest camps Ifo II and Kambioos established in 2011. Throughout the camps refugees have their own markets where they can buy fruits, rice or sugar to upgrade their monthly food rations distributed by CARE and other aid agencies or spend what little money they have on clothes, mobile phones and other daily necessities.

    2. Refugees don?t just receive support, they improve their own communities In the beginning of each month, refugees receive a food package including maize, sorghum and mobile phone e-vouchers for food called "Bamba Chakula," which they can use to buy fruits and vegetables at registered market stalls in their camps allowing them to make a choice in what they eat. Most of the market stalls are owned by refugees. They earn their own money to make a better living for their families. But it is not only the job as a market stall owner that enables refugees to pay for milk and meat; it is also humanitarian organizations that employ refugees. CARE has handed the day-to-day running of the camp over to refugees. With the support from ECHO the refugees have been trained in leadership as well as technical skills in maintaining water pumps and counselling services. Around 1,600 of them are supporting CARE?s work in the camps, as teachers at primary schools or building latrines and monitoring water distribution points. Most importantly, refugees are also involved in improving humanitarian operations and are encouraged to hand in complaints or positive feedback through specific post boxes.

    3. Kids are going to school and it?s girls who improved the most At Dadaab's inception there were only five percent of girls living in the camp who went to school on a regular basis. For the past 25 years CARE has been working closely with women and girls to empower them and shift cultural norms, and has helped bring about major change in the refugee population especially girl?s education. Today, nearly 14,000 students are going into CARE-run schools and it is almost 50-50 percent boys and girls who are sitting in classrooms. It is girls like Makhdis who have made the most progress throughout the years. She went to one of seven CARE primary schools in Dagahaley, participated in CARE teacher trainings, and is now working as an English teacher at her former school.

    4. It is not all about water and food, it is about logistics too People who are living in Dadaab fled war or drought without having the chance to take much of their belongings. Providing clean and safe water as well as food is very important to ensure they can survive. This is no easy task. Dadaab sits in northeastern Kenya, surrounded by desert and requires a significant logistical operation to transport relief items. Sand clogs engines and these vehicles need to be regularly serviced. The CARE Mechanical Service Unit maintained more than 300 UN, NGO and police cars in the past months, and also provides technical advice in terms of vehicle and equipment specifications during procurement for all of the agencies working in the refugee camp.

    5. It is not only refugees who have been living in Dadaab for years Some of the refugees living in Dadaab have been there for over 25 years, since the camp was established in 1991. But it is not only refugees here. It is also humanitarians who have spent years in this remote area, working as program advisors, mechanics or administration and logistics officers. ?I have dedicated my life to refugees in Dadaab. By providing essential services in transport, distributions and warehousing I support those displaced by war and conflicts.

    I have enjoyed being in company with the vulnerable, sharing their stories and giving them a glimpse of hope for their future,? explains Jacob Ochiel, a CARE assistant logistics officer, who joined the camp more than six years ago. [1] UNHCR, October 15, 2016 (not online yet).

    Start Date: 19.09.12: End Date: 30.09.15

    Current Beneficiaries: direct ; 1999, indirect ; 9965

    wPOWER project is an Access Africa program supported by U.S Department of state covering three years from September 2012 and to December 2015. wPower currently works in Kisumu, Homa Bay, Kisii, Nyamira, Siaya and Vihiga counties.

     The main goal is reduction in carbon emissions, deforestation and improves economic status of women through increased uptake of clean energy products by rural and peri-urban households within the Great Lakes Region. The project has four strategic objectives which include:

    1. To increase access of women to small-scale clean energy markets
    2. To increase the number enterprises and  incomes of women-managed small-scale clean energy technology enterprises,
    3. To increase public awareness of the role of women in clean energy markets.
    4. To improve documentation, evidence, and learning about the economic and environmental benefits of integrating women into clean energy value chains.

     The project is using existing GS&L groups to train 1,285 entrepreneurs who will be linked with clean energy product suppliers (Solar lamps and improved Cookstoves) to create a supply value chain that will reach villages in Nyanza (Kisumu, Siaya, Homabay and Kisii County), Eastern (Embu County), Northern Kenya (Garissa, Wajir and Mandera County). During the three years, the project is targeting to sell 82,275 solar lamps and 11,642 improved Cookstoves.

     Read the latest wPower newsletter. Click Here . The older edition can be found Here.

    wPower has already started to make a great impact on the women we work with! Read CARE Kenya's wPower Group Savings and Loans changing lives! 

    By Rose Vive Lobo, project manager for socio-economic reintegration with CARE DRC, in Goma. Together with her team, Rose supports survivors of sexual violence. This enables women who have gone through traumatic and debilitating experiences to regain their place in the community and earn a living. In these series of blogs, Rose describes life in the Eastern Congolese town of Goma and her work of a humanitarian aid worker.

    Being a humanitarian aid worker in DR Congo can be challenging. In Goma, where I live and work, the security situation has been calm for the past week or so but it remains volatile. The general feeling is that the resumption of fighting is imminent. Sometimes heavy explosions are heard, sometimes shells fall here and there in the city, and there are ongoing threats from armed forces.

     Cathy, my 11-year-old daughter, is still traumatized by what happened in Goma at the end of last year, when an armed group seized our hometown for a few days. Back then, on a Thursday, I went to work in a camp of displaced people. It was one of those camps that just mushroomed over night. Insecurity was still looming, and to make it to the camp on time to start our early work, I had to leave my house at 1 a.m. Cathy was very worried, but I kept telling her not to. I told why I had to go. CARE and other humanitarian organisations arranged for us to go to this is internally displaced camp in Mugunga to assess the number of people there and their needs. Cathy was very interested in what I told her, and asked lots of questions. It was moving to see how involved and interested she was in my work.

     During that time, I was confronted with the demands of working at night, fighting sleep deprivation and difficult conditions. And I came face to face with people living in extreme stress. They told us that they had to flee their villages because of fighting and violence and managed to find shelter in other villages. But three months later, at the end of last year, they were once again uprooted and came to Goma to seek shelter in this camp hastily patched together. I spoke to Cathy about this when I returned and she said that now she understood the sacrifices of my work, and how important this work was.

    A few weeks later, in the same camp, CARE distributed relief items to meet the most basic needs of the people: kitchen sets, jerry cans, plastic sheeting and other goods. The atmosphere was tense, the displaced men and women were impatient, visibly traumatized, sometimes also pushed to aggressive behavior. At one point, our work was interrupted by people who had not been counted during the earlier census, and demanded that they also receive the relief items. They said that they had been absent the day of our census, looking for firewood or seeking medical care. Some even tried to just take the relief kits and leave. For safety?s sake, CARE?s female staff left the camp, leaving the men to carry out the work. Fortunately, Congolese police and the United Nations peacekeeping forces were able to quickly re-establish order. This is a daily challenge in CARE?s work: our mission is to deliver humanitarian aid, but this is never an easy task.

     A few months ago, whilst together with Cathy, I met two women who are part of a savings group. CARE supports these village savings and loans groups, which help women save money as a group and then invest it in small businesses. Our friendly conversation made Cathy think these women were my colleagues. ?Mom, when are these nice ladies coming to our house? The colleagues you talked to the other day?, she asked me later. I told Cathy about the savings groups and how eager these women were to learn how to save and invest. Many told me that thanks to their new skills, they also had much easier access to credit from other sources. The relationship between the women is really strong and encouraging in my parts of the world. I often meet them to discuss what issues they might have them, and give them advice. Cathy?s observations made me think that she was right: I am on very good terms with the women in these groups and there is no feeling of hierarchy between us as it?s sometimes the case between people with different levels of education, background. Encouraged by this good relationship, my team and I work on the bigger picture: How do these savings groups help to eradicate poverty? How can we improve the way these women use their savings? And what are their expectations towards CARE? This is also a part of our humanitarian work. And these types of reflections make me appreciate my job even more. It gives me a chance to reach out to those who are often forgotten and left out.

     Despite the challenges of being a humanitarian aid worker in DRC, and the volatile security situation, Cathy?s early interest and questions make me think that she will do just the same.


     

    Blog by Barry Steyn, CARE International Safety and Security Director

     

    I?ve been working in the field of safety, security and risk management for the past 20 years, and in my current role for the past year and a half.

     

    A lot has changed in past two decades; there was a time when humanitarian workers were ?good people doing good work? and were respected and protected as such but those days are gone.

     

    Unfortunately, we now live in a world where humanitarian workers can be targeted simply because of what they might be perceived to represent. There are many parts of the world where people think humanitarian workers represent something foreign, dangerous and different, and are targeted because of that. Another development has been the massive increase in privatisation of the sector accompanied by private sector security firms and military forces utilizing humanitarian aid to win ?heart and minds?.  We very often do not share the same set of principles with these organisations and this can increase the risk to our staff because we are independent of foreign aims and objectives but sometimes they are not.  The local population on the ground may be hostile to these objectives but all they see are a group of people delivering aid and they cannot be expected to know the difference between us.  When this happens, it is imperative for us to ensure our independence, impartiality and neutrality are well communicated. 

     

    Also, safety and security are so much more than building fences or walls or managing guards.  It is about risk assessment, good program management, communication and a host of other skills. At the sharp end of safety and security in the field are our emergency and program staff. They understand that good safety and security relies on good program management just as good a programme management implies good safety and security.

     

    They are the ones that represent us in local communities and bear the burden of upholding our principles and communicating them. 

     

    They are the ones who are not only risking harsh traveling conditions into hard reached communities, who bear an incredible amount of psychological and physical stress but who also  risk their lives.  It is the type of work that demands courage and sacrifice.

     

    At CARE, we are lucky that we have a dedicated and experienced team who are striving to make the world a better place and will stop at nothing until this is achieved. 


     

     

    Blog by Wafaa Adnan Albaik, 32, Case Manager, CARE Urban Refugee Centre, Amman, Jordan

    I have been working at one of CARE?s urban refugee centres for about six months, and this is the sort of work I?ve always wanted to do.  I?ve always been interested in humanitarian work, and it?s very rewarding to help people in need.

    In my day to day work,  I meet Syrian refugees, asses them, and decide on the best way to help them ? this could also be emergency cash so they don?t get evicted from where they are living or help to pay for medicine and food.  Sometimes, I also refer people to other organisations who might be able to help. At the end of each day, I call up families and book appointments so that I can follow up with the people that we are helping and see how we can provide further support. 

    Working at the centre is very satisfying; I listen to people and try my best to help them but at times my work can be difficult and upsetting too.

    I remember meeting family who was so poor and living in such difficult conditions, that the mother had to sew together her clothes to cover up her children at night. They had no food or water. Their home suffered from humidity and on rainy days, the water would flood the house. When leaving their house, the lady cried out: ?please don?t forget us, please don?t forget us!? Refugees also tell me about life inside Syria. They talk of being surrounded all the time, no food, no water, hearing the constant bombing, the children living in constant fear, many of them have been attacked at their homes. People had to burry bodies only at night, if they did so in daytime they were at risk of being killed.

    The hardest part of my job is managing expectations. How do I tell someone who comes to us for help that we can?t help or that they need to go to another organisation?  I feel very upset when I can?t help someone. By listening and empathizing with refugees, I hope to be able to provide relief and support.

    We need more funding so we can assist as many people in need as possible. There were days when we had up to 400 refugees coming to the centre in Amman where I work.

    The centres will run for as long as we have funding and the situation for refugees here in Jordan remains the same. We anticipate that this will be a prolonged crises with increasing needs.

    NOTE: To date, CARE has reached about 110,000 refugees from Syria, providing cash assistance to pay for basic living costs, including rent, food and essential relief items. In addition, CARE has reached over 10,000 people among host communities with emergency relief items, including emergency cash, to support their gracious efforts in hosting the growing influx of Syrians desperately seeking safety.

    Last year, CARE set up a refugee center in East Amman where CARE volunteers, who are refugees themselves, assist in organizing and preparing distributions and provide information on access to support services. Since then, about 22,000 families have sought assistance at the center. CARE has opened another center in Zarqa and is planning to open similar hubs in three other cities in Jordan. In addition, CARE Jordan started psychosocial activities and will continue to support communities in Amman, Zarqa, Mafreq and Irbid, targeting more than 10,000 people by October of this year.

    CARE is also working with the UN and other agencies to open a new refugee camp in the coming months which will hopefully help greatly to meet increased needs created by the large influx of refugees into the single existing camp in Jordan. 


     

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