THE MISSION HAS JUST BEGUN – Horn of Africa
NAIROBI – Three members of the Assessment Team (ATeam), Bro. Joseph Niri, MI, Sr. Bernadette, CS and Ms. Anita Ennis (LCF) arrived in Nairobi last August 17. They were welcomed by Fr. James Wanjau, MI and Sr. Catherine, CS. They were sent by the CTF Central to conduct assessment of needs of the Somalian refugees in the Diocese of Garissa, where the biggest refugee camps are situated in the town of Dadaab. August 20, they arrived at Garissa together with Sr. Catherine. They were hosted by Fr. Clement, a clergy member of the diocese who happens to be the brother of Bro. Joseph.
After an initial briefing and meeting with some personalities in charge of the diocesan program, the team proceeded immediately to Dadaab, a place which hosted four (4) big refugee camps: Ifo, Dagahaley, Hagadeiro and Kambios. These camps were under the coordination of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and with the collaboration of the big international organizations such as Norwegian Refugee Council, Medecins Sans Frontier (MSF), etc. All those camps were visited by the ATeam.
During the visit the ATeam noticed the following: “There was a group of people gathered outside the compound; the men in one area who seemed to be marking their place in the queue and women and children sheltering under the trees. There appeared to be about 100 -150 people of all ages within the group. We were told that previously those waiting outside to be registered received no help but now the local leaders have been receiving donations of food and water from ‘well-wishers’ and they distribute something to these people. The people appeared tired, thin and subdued. We didn’t see any signs of severe malnutrition. Our walk around was brief (security recommendations) so, not necessarily a true reflection of the situation. Most people were scantily clothed.”“There is also some tensions between the indigenous host community and the refugees in the camps. The local community are also effected by the drought and are also receiving relatives from Somalia into their homes, which stresses their already over stretched resources. Another tension to be considered are the poor from the area who are reported to be very resentful of all the aid going into the camps, whilst they receive no help. This has caused some to present themselves as refugees. So there are a lot of complexities and undercurrents to be considered. As an aside, both Srs. Catherine and Bernadette were encouraged to dress simply for the visit to avoid any problems, they dressed in simple Habits without veils but with the red cross.””From Garissa, the A-Team will proceed to Wajir which is over a hundred miles away from the city. The Camillian Sisters has a community in that place, taking care of the disabled children. This will be our homebase.”
by Anita Ennis, LCF.