DADAAB, 4 July 2012 (IRIN) - Hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees in Kenya's northeastern Dadaab refugee camp depend on aid to meet all their basic needs; while they are grateful for the help and the relative security the settlement provides, many feel the aid could be managed in more effective ways.
Food distribution is one of the areas in need of improvement, say refugees. Each family should receive a food ration - including corn-soy blend, beans and cooking oil - twice a month amounting to about 2,100 calories per person per day. However, many refugees IRIN spoke to say the food is insufficient and delivery ineffective.
"The biggest challenge comes from the food distribution. Refugees do not get the right amount of food... That is why almost all the refugees... complain about food shortage," said Aden Cagalab, a refugee leader. "The food cuts off before the next cycle of food distribution and people stay hungry for about five days or borrow from their neighbours."
"[Agencies] should do constant monitoring during the food distribution and bring higher [numbers of] staff to closely check the quantity of food given to the beneficiaries," he suggested.
According to Cagalab, the medical services at Dadaab leave much to be desired. "People with chronic diseases have lots of problems to get attention. The camp doctor is always said to be busy, and sick people have difficulties getting referral for further treatment in Nairobi or Garissa [town in the northeast]."
Dadaab, originally built to house 90,000 refugees, currently hosts close to 500,000. Administration of the camp was handed over to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in the early 1990s; UNHCR runs the camp in partnership with several other UN agencies and local and international NGOs and with the support of the Kenyan government.
"There are refugee workers who are employed for the [food] distribution but they are not paid well so they manipulate and cut the share of beneficiaries and sell it in the market," said Bilay Mohamed, another refugee leader.
I would suggest that aid agencies be very strict on the service delivery and accountability so that refugees are treated with dignity
"Some people have more ration cards which makes them get more food. They buy the extra ration cards from other refugees who leave for Somalia or are resettled inside Kenya like Garissa or Nairobi," said Fatuma Abdi Bihi, a young mother.
The elderly and young mothers seem to be particularly affected by the problems with food distribution. "Some of us are pregnant while others are sick and elderly but no one cares about our condition... at the end what we get is not sufficient," said Halimo Mohamed Badal, an elderly woman at the camp.
"We walk from very far distances... for almost two hours to a distribution site... but when we reach the site, we spend more than 10 hours in a long queue and we get back home hungry and exhausted," Bihi said.
The large crowds on food distribution days are controlled by security officers whom the refugees accuse of excessive violence. "We are left in a very long queue in the sun and police are hired to control the crowd, but instead they beat us like animals. Some refugees go back to their homes with nothing after being beaten," said Badal.
"I would request the aid agencies not to hire policemen to control the crowd," she added. "The community leaders would be in a better position to control the crowd ... [they] should be involved in the decision-making and should be given that role."
And while most agencies operating in Dadaab have channels for feedback, the refugees say they are ineffective and their complaints are not dealt with effectively.
"Agencies always encourage beneficiaries to report all abuse cases but it does not happen accordingly, because refugees are not trained on the complaint mechanism," said Ebla Abullahil, a youth leader. "I would therefore suggest more trainings to be conducted for all the refugees on their rights and what services, how and when they are entitled to [them] and the way they can channel their complaints so they will be able to demand their rights should they be violated."
"I would suggest that [aid agencies] be very strict on the service delivery and accountability so that refugees are treated with dignity," said Hassan Dahir, another youth leader.
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