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.
For the last two weeks, my colleagues have reflected on global efforts to combat violence against women and girls, as part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. Today, I want to examine a vital and practical solution to the problem of gender violence: the engagement of men and boys.
This week, events are taking place across the globe to mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, a campaign to end violence against women, which, according to the UN, 70 percent of women will experience in their lifetime.
I spent two weeks in the Horn of Africa last month, and what I learned there was sobering: The recent influx of Somali refugees has swollen camps in Kenya and Ethiopia to critical levels. Kenya’s Dadaab camp now plays host to half a million people, while the population of Dolo camp in Ethiopia has tripled to 120,000. And the many small graves I saw in Ethiopia’s Kobe camp spoke to the heartbreaking price Somalis are paying more than three months into a devastating famine.
“Look at this,” the senior UN aid worker said to me, pointing to one of the many barbed-wire fences surrounding the Dadaab refugee camp. “This may look like a refugee camp, but it is really the world’s largest detention center.”
Dadaab is located in Kenya, 50 miles from the porous Somali border. Unified only by its drapes of plastic sheeting marked with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) logo, Dadaab is a cramped cacophony of tents, aluminum shacks, and even brick homes, that spans roughly 19 square miles.