Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's a Bitch Being a Climate Refugee

Maybe the worst thing about being a climate refugee is where do you go?   Chances are your choices are places that are nearly or as bad off as the place you're looking to escape.

According to Irin, the United Nations Humanitarian Affairs Office publication, some 1,300 Somalis turn up in Kenya each day to arrive in a place that's almost as bad off as their homeland.

About 1,300 Somalis are arriving at the Dadaab refugee camps in northeast Kenya every day. The help they are seeking - refuge from a severe drought and the effects of years of conflict - is being handed out as fast as possible. But in a camp complex that has already been stretched well beyond its limits, the new arrivals need more assistance than can be provided. The nutritional state of older children, as well as under fives, is of concern, but the local Kenyan population is faring little better. 

Naturally in a drought-stricken region, water is the greatest problem.  Aid workers report many refugees are getting just three litres of water per day, 80% less than what is deemed  an "emergency minimum."   Some are receiving as little as half a litre each day.  To put that in perspective, the North American per capita average is 350-litres a day.

 The UNHCR registration expert said many Kenyans attempted to register as refugees to obtain aid. Kenyans just outside the camp have to pay for water, schooling and medicine while people inside the camps get them for free. Despite the fact that education opportunities in the camp are meagre, those whose children are left out still perceive an injustice.

"They get free and better education and healthcare," said local shopkeeper Deckon Sirad Salah, who was a young boy when the first refugees arrived in Dadaab. "Livelihoods are even better in the camp," he said.

The local community used to graze their animals on the land now occupied by refugees, who also cut down surrounding trees for firewood.

Salah also believed new arrivals were to blame for growing insecurity in Dadaab town, and suggested refugees who were not receiving enough food were responsible for an uptick in store robberies, animal raids, and arms dealing. It was a problem when the camp was first created in the early 1990s, he said. “The new influx is taking us back to those bad old days.”

Sahara Dhubou, a mother and vegetable seller, also noticed a change in the town’s security. She couldn’t prove the new refugees were the culprits, but said that “before the new arrivals came, there was peace”. Now, she says, “there is fear in the night”.

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