Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Plea from the Refugee Highway

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Greetings from Nairobi! We hope and pray that this finds you fine and well.

We know that recently, most of you have been hearing about the drought and famine situation in the Horn of Africa - Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Many commentators have even said that what is going on may be the worst since the famine in Ethiopia in the mid-80s. This is perhaps why Ethiopia is the best prepared of the three affected countries.

Somalis are the most hit as they are dealing with serious drought and famine in parts of Southern Somalia, not to mention the raging war that has gone on for 20 years. Sadly, the Islamic group, Al-Shabab, is making the situation worse by banning most relief agencies from operating in the areas they control. They, in particular, banned the agency that could help the most - the World Food Program.

Current estimate is that at least 1,500 Somalis are crossing the border daily into Kenya and Ethiopia. On the Kenyan side, they are going to the Dadaab Refugee Camp located at the eastern end of the country between the Kenya-Somalia border. Before the latest flow of refugees, the refugee camp was home to about 300,000 people. That number is now getting close to half a million.

While Kenya is dealing with the escalating refugee crisis, it's also struggling to take care of it's own citizens, particularly those living in North Eastern Province and parts of North Rift, among them Turkana, Pokot, and Baringo. These are areas that have hardly seen rain this year. Add to this the poor maize crop for the current season and a runaway inflation. In areas like Nairobi and Mombasa, there are items that are rationed. Even if you have the money you are only allowed to buy a maximum of 2 kgs of sugar and 2 kgs of maize flour (the most important staple in Kenyan homes). The prices of basic commodities have ballooned so much in the last two months and even fuel prices (petrol, diesel, and kerosene) have almost doubled. For a nation where more than 55% live below the poverty line, this may also result to increase in the crime rate.

Our Somali brothers and sisters whom we minister to are sad and heartbroken to see what's happening to their homeland and to their people. They are thankful to be alive and far away from the dire situation. Many would like to help, but then they themselves are mostly undocumented and jobless, should be in the camp instead of Nairobi, and are struggling to live from day to day. They all passed through the same refugee camp and so they know and understand the situation there and recognize that it's worse now considering the number of people coming in and the scarce resources. For a country that has been in war for the last two decades, the present situation is just aggravating the already desperate plight of these people.

Our response as a team has been to work alongside partners who are authorized to enter the refugee camp. Due to the issue of security and the fact that there are just too many groups trying to get in to help, the Kenyan government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are restricting access to the camp. So, we are currently collecting clothes, shoes, and food supplies that we will be handing over to our partners for transportation to and distribution in the camp to those who need them. 

If you are interested in helping financially towards the famine and refugee situation here in Kenya for the locals and/or the Somalis seeking refuge, you can send your gift to our ministry account with International Teams (IT). Please designate it for the Horn of Africa Relief and IT will get the money to us, which we will be turning over to our partners on the ground.

Thank you. We appreciate all your prayers and support.

Dotun and Ami Modupe
Nairobi Refugee Team, Kenya
Horn of Africa Relief
International Teams
411 W. River Road
Elgin, IL 60123

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