Dadaab Camp, Kenya

Just two days ago the Kenya Government informed the UNCHR that the Dadaab Refugee Camp in northern Kenya would be closed in November 2016. This camp has been in operation since 1991 and has housed mainly Somali refugees. It is home to 320,000 refugees, making it the largest refugee camp in the world. Zataari, the refugee camp for Syrians in Jordan, houses 80,000 people. Dadaab is four times bigger.

While we continue to see the European migration crisis in the headlands and see nightly images of refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea being picked up by EU search and rescue ships, we tend to forget the 20 million refugees who lives in protracted situations like those in Dadaab. Around the world some 60 million people are displaced persons caused by wars, famine and climate change crises.

Dadaab camp itself began in 1991 as a refugee camp to house displaced persons from Somali. There were initially 90,000 people in the camp. It has grown exponentially since, its numbers varying with the seasons of the conflict situation in Somalia itself.
In the last two years, the Kenyan Government has become increasing convinced that the camp is enabling the presence of Al-Shabaab militants in the area and wants it closed. Kenyan miltiary forces have been engaged for some time in an on-going operation against Al-Shabaab within Somalia itself. MSF personnel have been kidnapped by Al-Shabaab within the camp and sold on to the pirates on the coast.

Damian McSweeney, an Irish Aid representative in the camp and a lecturer at University College Cork, believes that the Kenyan military operation has as its long-term goal the complete refoulement of Somali displaced persons back to Somalia itself. This will expose them to violence, a precarious living environement and, perhaps, a long-term period of insecurity beyond the reach of the humanitarian agencies. Agencies such as the UNHCR are extremely concerned about this evolving situation.

Let us not forgot the Dadaab Camp refugees.


The Children of Aleppo

February 9th, 2016

This morning the Winter cold bites deeper in the city of Aleppo in Syria. Food is running out as the Russian and Syrian Government siege of the city nears its inevitable end game. Fuel supplies, from ISIS held areas, is drying up. This means that homes are no longer heated.

We are told that the number of refugees fleeing the city for the Turkish border may reach 600, 000 in the coming days. The Turkish government has sealed its border and is obliging refugees to remain in refugee camps that have been established on the Syrian side of the border. Such camps tend to remain permanent. Refugees in search of a better life have no place to go.

Syria’s civil war has taken a dreadful toll on children. More than 10,000 children have been killed and 3 million have been displaced from their homes. Another 1.1 million now live as refugees outside Syria.

A BBC reporter based in Aleppo, Rami Jarah, offered a chilling account of life in the city on the BBC World Service this morning. He observed that he has noticed that parents in Syria no longer hold their children by the hand. Why? Because they instinctively are aware that their children can be taken from them at any moment. So, they automatically are distancing themselves emotionally from their children. This phenomenon has been documented elsewhere for other situations of profound social dislocation.

In all wars children are the first victims. This war is more tragic than most. And the international community appears to be unable to do anything. Or maybe our impotence has become a weary indifference.

Listen to Rami Jarah’s BBC report here

See the PBS Frontline report on the plight of children in Syria here

Children’s Human Rights Campaign

Nine is Mine Campaign Takes to the Streets

An Indian Christian Brother, Steve Rocha, leads a children’s human rights campaigning group called Nine is Mine. The title is based on the idea that nine per cent of Indian GDP should be spent on children if India is to meet its Millennium Goals commitments. The campaign has captured the imagination of Indian children. Currently, 60, 000 young people have signed up as members of the campaign.

The campaign is focused on the post–2015 UN Agenda, End Poverty and Exclusion, which seeks acceptance by the international community that six per cent for Education and five per cent for Health be established as the global minimum human development standard (as recommended by UNESCO and WHO.

Working with Edmund Rice International in Geneva, the young people are mobilising to bring their campaign before the United Nations in New York. They have already begun lobbying with the international diplomatic community in Delhi. Groups of nine children each have so far visited the Irish, Australian, Austrian, Swedish, Columbian, Slovenian, Mexican, US, Canadian and the Belgian embassies. They are hopting to expand their campaign in advance of the UN General Assembly which meets this September in New York.

At the moment, they are actively raising funds to have a group of young people speak at the General Assembly. Iona College in New Rochelle is assisting the group by coordinating accommodation and hospitality arrangements. Brother Kevin Cawley from Edmund Rice International, New York, is actively engaged in facilitating UN accesss. Let’s hope that the group succeeds.

First Eleven Campaign

Letter from Vijay Kumar

My name is Vijay Kumar. I belong to the Dalit (untouchable) community of India. I am a young activist and have been involved with the NINEISMINE campaign for a couple of years now. I seek your help on behalf of millions of Indian children and young people who live in abject poverty.

In the year 2000, world’s leaders from 189 countries met in New York to sign the historic Millennium Declaration Goals document that aimed at halving poverty and hunger by 2015.

The target of reducing extreme poverty by half has been reached five years ahead of the 2015 deadline…but, this is not a reason to relax. Projections indicate that in 2015…almost one billion will be living on an income of less than $1.25 per day…and children will suffer and die from preventable diseases. Hunger remains a global challenge, and ensuring that all children are able to complete primary education remains a fundamental, but unfulfilled, target that has an impact on all the other Goals. [1]

The NINEISMINE campaign is a children’s advocacy campaign that seeks the fulfillment of MDG 2, education for all, MDG 3, end gender discrimination and MDG 4, reduce child mortality (2+3+4 = NINEISMINE). It is an initiative of children, by children and for children to claim their right to be heard and their right to participation even in governance. This campaign began in India in response to Nelson Mandela’s call to every ordinary citizen to hold the government accountable to their commitment “to end poverty and social exclusion". [2]

In India, 5000 infants die each day due to common curable childhood diseases. Forty-eight per cent of its children are malnourished. Every third malnourished child in the world is Indian. Even with its historic Right to Education India still has 8 million children out of school and about 12.6 million child labourers.

It is in this scenario that we the children of India took it upon ourselves to demand that India allocates six per cent of GDP on Education and three per cent on Health, as was promised by our Government in its Election Manifesto of 2004. [3] Even now, our government spends around one per cent of the GDP on the health and about 3.7% of the GDP on Education. We at NINEISMINE demand 6%+3%=9% for the children.

In September 2013, all the world leaders will assemble in New York to draft the way forward beyond 2015 in framing a new set of Millennium/ Sustainable Development Goals (MDG/SDG). This therefore is an opportune advocacy moment for children worldwide.

Recognizing the importance of investing in people (and children in particular) the NINEISMINE campaign seeks the support from the world community of children to rally their voices in support of the recommendation of UNESCO (Oslo Declaration 2008 and Confintea VI Belem 2009) that 6% (though of GNP) be dedicated to Education. The WHO in 1981 on the other hand suggested that at least 5% of GNP [5] on health be accepted globally as a positive bench mark. (Global Strategy for Health for All by the Year 2000)

The NINEISMINE campaign recommends that – as a proportion of each country’s GDP – 6% for Education (in which at least half goes towards elementary education) and 5% for Health is adopted as the minimum global standard in relation to each country’s public spending for the same.

I along with the other children of the NINEISMINE campaign therefore appeal to you, our peers across the world to write to your respective governments and seek their support in demanding the inclusion of this as an indicator for the Education and Health Goals in the Post 2015 framework.

We also recommend that you send postcards or go in delegation to the relevant government offices and even other Ambassadors and High Commissioners to advocate that these standards of 6% for Education and 5% for Health be included into the new Millennium Development framework.

The idea is to have young people like me demand adequate investment into our future. Remember, child-rights abuses anywhere are a concern for children everywhere.

“Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.” [3]

[1] Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, UN MDG Report 2012
[2] Wada Na Todo Abhiyan
[3] GDP or Gross Domestic Product is the total value of products and services produced within the territorial boundary of a country.
[4] Mohammed Ali
[5] GNP or Gross National Product is the total value of goods and services produced by all nationals of a country, whether within or outside the country.