East Africa: Building Classrooms for Refugee Camps

AAR JAPAN has been sending staff to Kenya for emergency assistance in the East African areas (including Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia) where damage from severe drought continues to spread. On September 7th, AAR JAPAN’s emergency assistance team set up 15 tents to be used as school classrooms and five days later delivered school supplies such as blackboards and stationery to the refugee camp in Dadaab near the Somali border. Ikuko NATORI of AAR JAPAN’s Tokyo office reports on the ongoing effort.

August 16th – Dadaab, the world largest refugee camp, home to more than 400,000 people: Assistance from the international community is needed to help a swelling population in the camps.
Too Few Schools for Too Many Kids!

Approximately 300,000 people (mostly Somali refugees who fled the ongoing civil war in that country) were already living in refugee camps in Dadaab before the drought hit. This year alone, an additional 154,000 Somali refugees flooded into the camps, with 1,300 more arriving every day.

In response to this critical humanitarian crisis, several UN organizations, including UNHCR and other aid groups from around the world have stepped up to engage in relief efforts. Food and water are being distributed by every aid organization, though supplies are still not sufficient. At the same time, the number of schools is far from sufficient for the increasing number of refugees. Currently, of 156,000 school-aged children living in Dadaab; only 42% of eligible children are enrolled in primary school, and for middle school, enrolment is as low as 5%.

September 12th – Children in a classroom tent, where they can study with some peace of mind.
I met many people in Angola and South Sudan who found jobs at home or in other countries after leaving the refugee camps thanks to the education they received while in the camps. For people who may not have a house, land, or livestock, just having an education can lead to employment.

A local NGO, ADEO (active mainly in the fields of medicine and education in East/West Africa), runs primary schools in Dadaab. Concerned by the severe lack of classrooms leading into the start of the new semester, ADEO sought support from AAR JAPAN.

Providing Classrooms, Blackboards, and Stationery

On September 7th, AAR JAPAN installed 15 tents to be used as classrooms on the premise of the primary school in Ifo Camp, Dadaab. The installation was finished just in time for the new semester, and many children are now enrolled in the school. AAR JAPAN also delivered school supplies such as blackboards, chalk, notebooks, and pencils, on the 12th of September.
“I’d never gone to school before. I’m having so much fun every day,”said Nazzi Muhammed Omar, a 12-year-old boy, who came from Somalia three months ago. He lost his father to disease and had been helping his mother in the field. Due to the drought, however, all the crops they were growing, including beans, rye, and maize, were destroyed. They used to go 20 kilometers by carriage to obtain water, but the donkey that was pulling the carriage died from hunger. Tears in his eyes, Nazzi told us that after that he jumped onto the back of a truck along with his mother and five brothers to cross the border. When asked what his dream was, he answered assertively, “I want to become a school teacher.” I hope he’ll continue his studies and achieve his goal.

September 12th –Nazzi Muhammed Omar tells his story: “My favorite subjects are English and Swahili.” At right is Ikuko NATORI of AAR JAPAN.
Assistance to Local Kenyans in the Surrounding Areas

The influx of refugees continues today. AAR JAPAN is committed to maintaining its aid efforts in coordination with other aid groups, such as international institutions and other NGOs, as well as the local people, carefully taking into consideration both what is most needed by the growing number of refugees and what AAR JAPAN can do to support them.

It is not only those who live in the refugee camps who need help. Damage done by the drought across the North Eastern Province of Kenya is enormous, with many local residents facing the same hardships as those living in the camps. Since they are not considered refugees, however, relief assistance seldom reaches these locals. Therefore, AAR JAPAN intends to give attention to the host communities as well, assisting them as we did in the eastern Kenyan town of Garissa where we distributed food not only to the refugees but also to residents living nearby.

Although this crisis has had low media exposure in Japan, in East Africa a great number of people are barely surviving day by day and desperately need help.
With your assistance, many more refugees’ lives can be saved. AAR JAPAN humbly asks for your continued support.

The refugee camp in Dadaab in the North Eastern Province of Kenya. At center is Ikuko NATORI from AAR JAPAN’s Tokyo office.
September 12th – Children come out of a classroom  installed by AAR JAPAN

*This project has been made possible thanks to a grant provided by Japan Platform in addition to generous individual donations.

Overseas Division Chief, AAR JAPAN Tokyo office
Engaged in assistance to developing nations as staff for the United Nations and NGOs since 1999. With AAR JAPAN, in charge of mine action in Angola from 2006, and water and sanitation projects in Southern Sudan (now the Republic of South Sudan) from 2008. Overseas Division Chief at AAR JAPAN Tokyo office since 2010. Involved in various emergency relief efforts such as the 2010 Haiti Earthquake. (Born in Shiga Prefecture)
(Profile at the time of posting)