Dadaab, Kenya — While visiting the world’s largest refugee camp, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin stopped to speak with Amina Diis, a 30-year-old mother of four who arrived here from Somalia, just two days earlier.
Even though she appeared weary from the four day trek from Kismayo, Amina’s resolve to tell her story was unwavering. It’s a story that reflects what many families experience as they flee the famine and conflict in Somalia to seek help across the borders.
With its expanses of UNHCR tents spreading out across the parched landscape, some might see misery. For new arrivals, the camp looks like hope.
Walking four days without food
“I have walked for four days without food for me and my children. And now that I have arrived here, I am tired but I hope that they will be able to help us. It is only here that I see hope for me and my four children,” Amina said as she breastfed her young baby, oblivious of the battery of journalists clicking away as she told her story.
Dr. Osotimehin, holding the hand of one of Amina’s children, assured her that UNFPA will do everything to help mothers like her to get the help they so much need.
“We will do everything to help mothers like you. We are here to look at ways that mothers affected by the famine can receive better help,” he said, adding, “UNFPA will scale up its activities and strengthen them towards addressing gender issues such as gender-based violence and uptake of reproductive health services.”
Dr. Osotimehin arrived here Wednesday to call attention to the urgent needs of women and youth affected by the famine ravaging the Horn of Africa.
Understanding the situation fundamental to developing a proper response
“I have seen the human face to this crisis, and I am particularly happy that issues that UNFPA is passionate about are being addressed. Our ability to respond depends on understanding the situation,” he said to reporters. “Let me start by acknowledging the work being done by partners.” Like other relief efforts, the response to the crisis in the Horn of Africa depends on teamwork among a host of UN partners.
Dr. Osotimehin said that the ability to properly respond is dependent on understanding the situation on the ground. He noted the need to scale up the provision of contraception to women, saying it is the best way moving forward in addressing the issues affecting many of the displaced families.
“UNFPA will work with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees on contraception provision because it is the best way moving forward in addressing the challenges faced by many of the affected populations,” he said.
Dr. Osotimehin also met with the youth from Somalia who live in Dadaab, many of the whom emphasized their need for opportunities for education and gainful employment. The Executive Director assured them of UNFPA’s commitment towards addressing their issues.
“I like the fact that young people and the need to engage them have been identified as an issue. I have had a chat with the youth and they need access to education, health and protection, and we will work with partners towards this end,” Dr. Osotimehin told reporters.
According to aid organizations and UN agencies, the famine has affected close to 12.4 million people in the Horn of Africa, mainly affecting people from four countries, namely Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti.
— Kenneth Odiwuor for UNFPA