Established in 1991, Dadaab is the biggest refugee camp in the world. Originally constructed for 90,000 people fleeing civil war in Somalia, the camp now holds more than 275,000 refugees. Here is what you need to know:
1. Dadaab is basically a small city
It is divided into five camps, which are further separated into different blocks according to nationality. Throughout the camps refugees have their own markets where they can buy fruits, rice or sugar to upgrade their monthly food rations distributed by CARE and other aid agencies or spend what little money they have on clothes, mobile phones and other daily necessities.
2. Refugees earn their own money
Refugees don’t just rely on aid; they earn their own money to make a living for their families. Some work at the markets, and many are employed by humanitarian organisations like CARE. In fact, CARE has handed the day-to-day running of the camp over to refugees, with more than 1,500 of them working as technicians to maintain water pumps or build latrines, others are trained to provide counselling services or work as teachers in the schools.
3.Kids are going to school
Nearly 14,000 students are going to schools run by CARE in the camps. It is almost 50-50 boys and girls who are sitting in classrooms. Makhdis (pictured above) arrived in Dadaab many years ago and attended one of the CARE primary schools. Now an adult, she has received CARE teacher training and is working as an English teacher at her former school.
4. CARE has full-time mechanics working in the camp
Dadaab is surrounded by desert and requires a significant logistical operation to transport relief items like clean water and food. This is no easy task. Sand can clog engines so vehicles need to be regularly serviced. The CARE Mechanical Service Unit works on hundreds of United Nations, aid agency and police cars every month, and also provides technical advice on vehicle and equipment specifications during procurement for all of the agencies working in the refugee camp.
5. Some people have lived there for more than 25 years
From 1991 until today, it is not only refugees who have lived in the camp. Many humanitarians have spent years working in the remote area. “I have dedicated my life to refugees,” explains Jacob, a CARE logistics officer, who joined the camp more than six years ago. “I have enjoyed being in company with the vulnerable, sharing their stories and giving them a glimpse of hope for their future.”
By Ninja Taprogge, CARE Emergency Communications Officer in Dadaab