Above: Part of the sprawling refugee settlement in Dadaab, Kenya.By Frank Schott, NetHope Managing Director, New Program Development A few weeks ago on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I took a short Lyft ride downtown to catch the Seattle Mariners. My Lyft driver, Mohamed, was super talkative and we soon became involved in conversation. Little did … Continued
Since July 2011, the worst drought and famine in East Africa in more than 60 years placed severe strain on the multitude of humanitarian agencies working in Dadaab, Kenya – the world’s largest refugee camp with a population exceeding 500,000 individuals. The unprecedented number of displaced people required a massive scale-up of operations by USAID-funded humanitarian agencies working in Dadaab. To meet mission goals and to save lives, significant improvements and increases in Internet connectivity were essential.
The worst drought and famine in more than 60 years has placed strain on humanitarian agencies working in Dadaab, Kenya and calls for better-coordinated relief efforts. The crisis has threatened the livelihood of 9.5 million people in the Horn of Africa since early 2011. Refugees from Somalia continue to arrive in Kenya by the tens of thousands, making the Dadaab complex now the world’s largest refugee camp ever with almost 500,000 counted and perhaps as many as 100,000 more unregistered. Responding aid organizations are stretched to their limits as they try and provide critical life-sustaining services such as food, housing, sanitation and medical relief to those in Dadaab. To make matters even more difficult, Somali-based terrorist organization al Shebaab recently escalated activities in and around the camps. Security has been heightened to ensure the safety of contractors, staff and refugees.
To answer the pressing challenges encountered by agencies working in the Dadaab camp, NetHope, Inveneo and Cisco came together to create a new collaboration network that enables humanitarian agencies to function better, to communicate better with other organizations and to better support operations.
Visiting refugee “camps” is always a life changing experience. In September my work with NetHope took me to the Dadaab refugee camp in northeast Kenya. Over 200,000 refugees (mostly from Somalia) have lived in Dadaab camp since the early 1990’s. In the last year, the camp size has grown to almost 500,000 refugees as the flight of Somalis to neighboring Kenya has accelerated due to the life threatening food crisis in the Horn of Africa. It is hard to think of these as “camps” because they are the middle of the desert, with no electricity and very limited clean water supply. There is almost nothing there that we would associate with a “camp.”