For the past 21 years the nation of Somalia has been enshrouded in an ever burning fire of civil war. Since the collapse of its central government in 1991, Somalia has been in a state of civil war and anarchy. Countless millions of lives have been lost and millions more have been gifted with the promise of death as sovereign countries and international organisations alike have stood by and watched, unable and unwilling to bring a stop to the horrific bloodshed.
Of those Somalis fortunate enough to escape their bloodshed, only a modest minority make to the western world. Most Somali's become internally displaced in their own land or are housed as refugee in camps in the neighbouring countries of Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti. They flee often with little more than the cloths on their back in search of safety and place to live to see another day. They walk hundreds of miles with the hot sun and sand searing their bodies in search of food, shelter, medical care and most importantly, safety. However, those who find themselves in these camps (Dolo Ado, Dadaab, Kakuma, Ifo etc.) come face to face yet again with the wholesale brutality that caused them to flee their homeland.
Disproportionately, millions of women and children have perished as a result of the war and disproportionately they are the ones who occupy the camps. Some have been born there and know no other home. They live with the fact of daily rape, beatings, intimidation and even death. These camps are overcrowded, housing upwards of 300,000 people. They do not have adequate shelter, healthcare, education, food, or fresh water. Yet, year after year and even with the drought induced famine; the number one reason that the Somali people are flocking to the camps is for safety.
Some of the refugee camps housing the displaced from the Somali war are the largest in the world. Security in these camps has been a known problem. For the women and children, the beatings and the rapes are part of everyday life. The shame and health complications are silenced and normalised. The only difference in security from the camps to the streets of Mogadishu is the heavy gunfire or "music." In essence the camps are Mogadishu without the music. Collecting wood or water is a necessary feat that can get you violently attacked, beaten, raped or even killed.
The Kenyan police around camps are there to primary protect the safety of Kenya, they subsist on bribes therefore eliciting their help can create further problems. The staff of aid organisations are unable to protect or deter, fearing for the safety of their own lives in their secured compounds. The solution to the number one problem affecting Somali’s as a whole and particularly those in the camps will not be brought by the Kenyan police, or following through with current security partnerships. The solutions must be brought in partnership with the refugees who have first-hand knowledge of the problems, they must be not only listened to but heard.
Women and children need outreach workshops on self-defence; they need to be educated in the prevention of security lapses. Safer strategies for the collection of water and firewood must be implemented. Strategies like armed escorts to watering holes and firewood collection location will decrease the opportunities for the perpetrators. Monies need to be allocated for night lighting for the camps, a system to call for security when in danger, night patrol and cameras in high risk areas.
The high number of rape victims that occur so often in the refugee camps need to be addressed and made priority. The diminutive action taken to prevent rape needs to improve dramatically as well as the level of awareness which is more less being concealed. The security and protection system that has been put in place to protect Somali refugees for the past two decades has been defective as well as a gruelling experience for the refugees. With the help of the large Somali diaspora, international communities, government intervention and global awareness we can change this and make a difference to the lives of the many thousand Somali refugees. We need to work together to raise more awareness and establish a new protection system to prevent the dehumanising torture and abuse these vulnerable Somali's have to face on a daily basis.