Working with refugees to deliver vital food aid: A Q&A with CARE?s director of refugee operations in Dadaab, Kenya

    A native of Calgary, Alberta, Rod Volway is CARE?s director of refugee operations in Dadaab, Kenya where he oversees programming that reaches more than 260,000 refugees.


    Could you provide a general overview of CARE's work in Dadaab?

    Dadaab is made up of about five refugee camps altogether. CARE works predominantly in one of them, and we do food distribution in two others. We have been working in Dadaab since 1992.

    This is one of the largest refugee concentrations in the world. We provide food, core relief items like household items, women's hygiene products, etc. We are also involved in supporting primary education and we do a gender community development program that does gender-based violence prevention programming and provides counselling and support for psychosocial issues. We also provide water, sanitation and hygiene support as well.

    How does CARE manage the food distribution process?

    It's actually quite an impressive operation. The first time I saw it, I was really taken back by the size of it.

    There are currently about 268,000 refugees in the three camps (Ifo, Ifo 2 and Dagahaley) and about 12,000 to 15,000 people receive food for their families each day.

    We distribute food to families and individuals twice a month, giving people a 15-day ration depending on the number of days in the month.

    Distribution starts first thing in the morning and then goes usually until noon, just because of the heat. People are given a card from the UN that they bring to distribution and it is cross-referenced to the manifest to make sure that we've got the right person. There's a help desk set up in case for some reason someone doesn't show up on the manifest or their card is lost or something.

    Then they go through a big long corridor where the ration is distributed. It's based on the family size ? only one family size is served at a time ? and they range from single person households to 12 (and sometimes more) people. Usually there is flour, maize, beans, oil, sugar, a corn-soya blend as well ? and then an extra ration for children under five.

    Could you tell us about the role the refugees themselves play in helping with this process?

    The refugees are quite critical to the operation. CARE hires refugees to assist with the distribution as what we call ?refugee incentive workers.? It?s a good source of employment for them as they can't legally get jobs outside of the camps in Kenya as they are not Kenyans. We employ about 800 of them in a variety of roles, but usually food scoopers are the big one. Then there are supervisory roles. There's also a help desk that they assist on.

    Refugees are also an important part of food aid committees we meet with before and after every distribution with the intent to get feedback about what went well and what didn't go well so we can continue to improve our efforts. We also advise them of any changes to the types of food we?ll provide on the next distribution.

    How does CARE focus specifically on the needs of women and girls in the food distribution process?

    We try to ensure that there is a proportionate representation of women employed to help with the distribution. We also really make efforts to have women be able to collect the food ? we find it's less likely to get diverted to the market if a woman collects it.

    Overall, I think that we do have a fairly good representation of women all things considered. On the last food aid committee, we were about 40 per cent women. The split is pretty even.

    Another part of our food distribution involves working with schools to help feed kids so they don?t start their day on an empty stomach. Could you explain a little about that?

    In each of the schools, there is a proper kitchen set up and the children are served a hot porridge that is made by cooks we employ. These cooks go through proper hygiene education and the kitchens are regularly inspected.

    There is also a take-home ration of a bit of extra sugar for girls who have achieved a certain percentage attendance rate in the school.

    Do you find this encourages more girls to attend?

    Definitely. This provides an added incentive for girls to go to school. We also do things like get uniforms for girls ? and boys too ? to make it more appealing to join.

    How does CARE help those who are may be incapable of collecting the food themselves because they are too sick for example?

    The community is pretty good about looking after one another, so there is usually an option for them to have an alternate food collector, especially for elderly refugees. 


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