As the 67th General Assembly opens this week, and as the United Nations gears up for the countless high-level meetings and side events that follow, the enormity of the challenges facing the UN is striking.
This post first appeared on The Hill's Congress Blog.
The first thing you notice are the colors. The vibrant reds, blues, and greens of the multi-colored domes that dot an otherwise dry and dusty landscape. From a distance, it could almost be described as beautiful. But as we drive closer, the domes transform into the crude and woefully inadequate shelters of thousands of displaced Somalis.
This week, Refugees International is embarking on a field mission to Somalia, where we will assess the conditions of – and gaps in response for – the more than 1.3 million Somalis who are internally displaced. Our team plans to visit IDP settlements in the capital, Mogadishu, as well as in the breakaway regions of Puntland and Somaliland.
Mark Yarnell, RI's advocate for the Horn of Africa, appeared on Capitol Hill following his recent mission to Kenya and Ethiopia. He told members of Congress that political leverage (not just aid money) is needed to ensure Somali refugees get the help they need.
As Mark told members of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. House of Representatives, "where we do have control, and where we do have access, it is our responsibility to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable are being met."
At last week's London Conference on Somalia, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki called for a “firm and durable” solution to the refugee crisis. This includes the return of Somali refugees from the camps in Kenya’s northeast back over the border into Somalia.
This post originally appeared at African Arguments, the blog of the Royal African Society.
Tens of thousands of Somali refugees live in Kenya’s cities, but they are often forgotten amid the region’s myriad refugee problems. So on our recent visit to Kenya, we asked how these people have been affected by the (presumed) Al Shabab attacks on Kenyan refugee camps further afield.
My colleague, Melanie Teff, and I are just back from the main staff complex of the Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya. Our RI colleagues last visited the camp and met with refugees in October 2011, amid a major influx of Somalis seeking refuge from famine and conflict.
Barack H. Obama
United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of Refugees International, I write to highlight the ongoing displacement crisis in the Horn of Africa and urge you, in your upcoming State of the Union Address, to showcase U.S. leadership on this issue and the need for sustained, high-level attention to the plight of those impacted by drought and famine.