Check out Manie and Mohamed’s joint article in SCIC’s newsletter, EarthBeat, on the crisis in Somalia.
ps. don’t be afraid of the download – it’s legit, we promise!
“Shabby makeshift shelters built out of rags stretched across thorn-bush frames are squeezed alongside the comparatively spacious UN tents. The constant press of humanity, of people absolutely everywhere all the time, feels utterly overwhelming.” – Credit to Peter Greste with Al Jazeera.
See here for more photographs.
Dolo Ado refugee camp is found at the southeast corner of Ethiopia which is 40 kms north of the Kenyan border and five kilometers from Somalia. The camp mainly consists Somali refugees who fled civil war and the great East African drought. Based on realities on the ground, Peter Greste of Al Jazeera equates Dolo Ado refugee camp with the vision of hell on the earth for various reasons. It is extremely hot -”more than 40 degrees centigrade in the shade in the shade – if one can find it – with a constant dust and wind”. The number of new arrivals in the camp is over 2000 per-day. The transit center at the camp consists over 14,000 people which is beyond its capacity. Originally it was “intended for one-tenth that number”. The camp suffers from lack of basic necessities. Lack of food remains chronic, and people sleep in shabby makeshift shelters and all over the bush.
WUSC Regina sponsored student Patience Umereweneza on the lives lead by refugees who do not live in camps:
Last semester WUSC Regina came up with an awesome refugee awareness strategy on campus by creating a mock refugee camp. This camp highlighted the way of life in a refugee camp including issues faced by refugees in the camps. These issues included women’s issues, lack of food, lack of sanitation, and of course lack of security.
However not all refugees live in camps. In fact according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), only a third of the world’s refugees live in camps today.
This growing trend of urban refugees stems from the fact that cities, unlike camps, create opportunities to stay anonymous, make money, and build a better future. These urban refugees claim that they have a slightly higher chance of regaining control over their wellbeing than if they lived in camps. There are, for example, hundreds of thousands of Somalians living in Nairobi and vast numbers living in other countries such as Djibouti and Yemen. Another example is the new policy that the Ethiopian government presented to UNHCR in which Eritrean refugees who can support themselves are allowed to live outside the camps. This new policy allows Eritrean refugees to live outside camps in any part of the country, provided they are able to sustain themselves financially or have a close or distant relative or a friend in Ethiopia who commits to support them. This change in policy is focused on enabling these refugees to live outside the camp settings.
However, living outside of camps however can be very dangerous for refugees. Most countries do not recognize refugees as legal persons and therefore UN papers are not always respected or even recognized. This makes refugees vulnerable to exploitation, arrest and detention, and they can be in competition with the poorest local workers for the worst jobs. Female, elderly, and children refugees are also vulnerable to rape, molestation, and sex trafficking. With the way international aid for refugees is structured, refugees living in large cities often struggle to find their way to UNHCR and receive aid or services that are readily available in camps. It is also not easy for all refugees who live outside camps to earn a living. This can be due to racism, lack of local skills, jobs available, and language barriers. For example over 3.5 million people in Burma have been displaced by the ruling military junta and 147,000 have fled to Thailand. However, these refugees are not recognized and cannot earn income outside refugee camps. Women especially lack access to training and livelihoods and what employment they find outside the camps brings high vulnerabilities and risks.
I have never lived in a camp so I can’t say from experience how camps are compared to living outside a camp. However, I feel that not living in a camp gave me a chance to feel like a normal kid for at least a few hours of the day. My siblings and I learned the local language and so were able to go to school and make friends. We blended in…in our own way and were able to lead a normal life to an extent. Yes there was the constant fear of being caught but sometimes the best way to hide something is put it right in front someone’s face. Living inside or outside a camp is not always a choice we make but is a circumstance that just happens and when it does, we just try to make the best out of it.
WUSC executive member, Jess, recently had the opportunity to attend a lecture on the plethora of health issues facing refugees in camps, and upon arrival at their new homes around the world, and agreed to share a write-up with us on what she learned:
Many refugees flee their homes to come to Canada due to persecution and they are in need of protection. I recently got the opportunity to have an in depth look at refugee health for new refugees in Canada. Many refugees need immediate health care when they arrive in Canada. This is due to the fact that the majority of migrants are untreated before they come over to Canada and unfortunately, refugees are not able to get health insurance for up to three months after arriving in Canada.
Refugee women and children in camps have an increased risk for communicable diseases and older age groups are more vulnerable to chronic disease. So when they arrive in Canada they need immediate treatment or some diseases would get worse. The health care treatment then causes some refugees to become in debt as soon as they enter the country due to medical bills. A student refugee that is brought in with the World University Service of Canada has all medical paid for, including medication and dental. Dental health can be one of the largest problems for some refugees due to Vitamin D deficiency.
On top of physical medical health, many refugees can have post-traumatic stress disorder from trauma they have experienced. Many of these refugees are not likely to seek a support group or psychiatric treatment when they are in a foreign country. WUSC provides a support group for the transition to a new country.
Furthermore, lack of education and language barriers stop some refugees from getting the treatments they need. Refugees are less likely to go for health care because they may not be educated on it or they may not be able to communicate with health care professionals. For this reason a support group is necessary when refugees come to Canada to provide them with the knowledge about a new country. In addition, translators are also a necessity in certain times.
Poverty and racism are also determinants of health care. Many refugees may not go for health treatment due to lack of money or they may have encountered racism at some point and it has soured their experience. It has been shown that because of the lack of health care that nine percent of refugee children’s growth is stunted in the United States. In addition, malnutrition can restrict cerebral development which then in turn makes some classes in school a challenge.
For refugee health in Canada to advance there needs to be a team in Canada who is aware of the refugee’s cultural needs and is there to educate them and interpret society and health for them at the beginning of their migration. Having a pre-arrival medical exam would also be greatly helpful in determining what Health Canada can do to help refugees. Health institutions should also create more internationally friendly facilities. The fact that Health Canada is worried about refugee health is a step in the right direction. In addition, organizations like the Regina Open Door Society need more funding to help refugees when they first enter the country. WUSC is a great example of an organization that is working towards better refugee health in Canada.