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Ifo II camp in Dadaab.
Ifo II camp in Dadaab.
Dadaab is located in Kenya
Location in Kenya
Coordinates: 0°03′04″N 40°18′50″E / 0.051°N 40.314°E / 0.051; 40.314Coordinates: 0°03′04″N 40°18′50″E / 0.051°N 40.314°E / 0.051; 40.314
Country  Kenya
County Garissa County
Time zone EAT (UTC+3)

Dadaab is a semi-arid town in Garissa County, Kenya. It is the site of a large UNHCR base hosting 350,000 people in five camps as of May 2015.[1] In 2013, the governments of Kenya and Somalia signed a tripartite agreement facilitating the repatriation of refugees at the complex.[2]


Dadaab is located approximately 100 kilometres (60 mi) from the Kenya-Somalia border.

Until recently, the local population traditionally consisted of nomadic Somali camel and goat herders. The nearest major town is Garissa, which is the headquarters of the North Eastern Province.

UNHCR base[edit]

Dadaab features a UNHCR base that serves refugee camps around the town: Hagadera, Ifo Dagahaley and Kambios. The international humanitarian organization CARE is UNHCR's lead implementing partner responsible for managing the camp. Much of the town's economy is centered on services for the base's residents. The camps cover a total area of 50 square kilometres and are within an 18 km radius of Dadaab town. As of May 2015, the base is the fourth largest population center in the country, and its five camps collectively constitute the world's largest refugee settlement.[3] Refugees living at the camp face numerous threats to their health, including diarrhea, pulmonary issues, and fever. Malnutrition is also a constant problem, and between June and October of 2011 an outbreak of measles caused many more deaths.[4]

Humanitarian and relief supplies delivered by a Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa airplane at the UNHCR base in Dadaab.

Dadaab hosts people that have fled various conflicts in the larger Eastern Africa region. Most have come as a consequence of the civil war in southern Somalia, including both Somalis and members of Somalia's various ethnic minority groups such as the Bantu.[5] Most of the latter have migrated from the southern Jubba Valley and the Gedo region, while the remainder have arrived from Kismayo, Mogadishu and Bardera. In 1999, the United States classified the Bantu refugees from Somalia as a priority and the United States Department of State first began what has been described as the most ambitious resettlement plan ever from Africa, with thousands of Bantus in Dadaab scheduled for resettlement in America.[6]

The Dadaab camps (Ifo, Dagahaley, Hagadera) were constructed in the early 1990s. Ifo camp was first settled by refugees from the civil war in Somalia, and later efforts were made by UNHCR to improve the camp. As the population expanded, UNHCR contacted German architect Werner Shellenberg who drew the original design for Dagahaley Camp and Swedish architect Per Iwansson who designed and initiated the creation of Hagadera camp. For many years the camps were managed by CARE, and later environmental and waste management issues were overseen by GTZ.

CARE Youth Center in Dadaab.

Deforestation has an effect on the lives of Dadaab's residents. Despite typically being required to remain in the camp, residents often have to venture out in search of firewood and water. This leaves women and girls vulnerable to violence as they journey to and from the camp.[7]

In 2006, flooding severely affected the region. More than 2,000 homes in the Ifo refugee camp were destroyed, forcing the relocation of more than 10,000 refugees. The sole access road to the camp and to the town was also cut off by the floods, effectively cutting off the town and refugee camps from essential supplies. Humanitarian agencies present in the area worked together to bring vital goods to the area.[8][9] This effort resulted in the creation of the Ifo 2 camp extension in 2007 by the Norwegian Refugee Council. However, legal problems with the Kenyan Government prevented Ifo 2 from fully opening for resettlement until 2011.[10] With camps filled to capacity, NGOs have worked to improve camp conditions. However, as most urban planners frequently lack the tools to contend with such complex issues, there have been few innovations to improve Dadaab. Opportunities remain such as upgrading and expansion processes for communications infrastructure, environmental management and design.[11]

Somali women distributing water at the base.

In 2011, the drought in East Africa caused a dramatic surge in the camps' population.[12] In July 2011, it was reported that more than 1000 people per day were arriving in dire need of assistance.[13] The influx reportedly placed great strain on the base's resources, as the capacity of the camps was about 90,000 whereas the camps hosted 439,000 refugees in of July 2011 according to the UNHCR.[14] The number was predicted to increase to 500,000 by the end of 2011 according to estimates from Médecins Sans Frontières. Those population figures ranked Dadaab as the largest refugee camp in the world.[15]

According to the Lutheran World Federation, military operations in the conflict zones of southern Somalia and a scaling up of relief operations had by early December 2011 greatly reduced the movement of migrants into Dadaab. Rainfall had also surpassed expectations and rivers were flowing again, improving the prospects of a good harvest in early 2012.[16]

A Somali UNHCR repatriation official.

By February 2012, aid agencies had shifted their emphasis to recovery efforts, including digging irrigation canals and distributing plant seeds.[17] Long-term strategies by national governments in conjunction with development agencies are believed to offer the most sustainable results.[18]

In November 2013, the Foreign Ministries of Somalia and Kenya and the UNHCR signed a tripartite agreement in Mogadishu paving the way for the voluntary repatriation of Somalian nationals living in Dadaab.[19][20] Both governments also agreed to form a repatriation commission to coordinate the return of the refugees.[19] By February 2014, around 80,000 to 100,000 residents had voluntarily repatriated to Somalia, significantly decreasing the base's population.[2] According to the UNHCR, the center hosted 350,000 people as of mid-2015.[1] 80% of residents were women and children and 95% were Somalian nationals.[1][21] Over 2,000 of the individuals had returned to the Luuq, Baidoa and Kismayo districts in southern Somalia under the repatriation project.[1] However, the majority of the returnees had instead repatriated independently.[20] Following the Garissa University College attack in April 2015, which had resulted in 147 deaths, the Kenyan government asked the UNHCR to repatriate the remaining refugees to a designated area in Somalia within three months.[22] The Federal Government of Somalia and UNHCR later confirmed that the repatriation would continue to be voluntary in accordance with the tripartite agreement, and that eight districts in Somalia from where most of the individuals had come had officially been designated as safe for repatriation.[21][23] The three-month ultimatum passed without Dadaab being closed; on 5 August 2015, the first group of 116 persons voluntarily returned to Somalia.[22]

See also[edit]

Liboi – a town in the North Eastern Province located 75 kilometers east of Dadaab


  1. ^ a b c d "UNHCR chief visits Somali port of Kismayo, meets refugee returnees". UNHCR. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Nairobi to open mission in Mogadishu". Standard Digital. 19 February 2014. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  3. ^ "Kenya and its Somalis: Scapegoats". The Economist. 9 May 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2015. 
  4. ^ Polonsky, Jonathan A.; Ronsse, Axelle; Ciglenecki, Iza; Rull, Monica; Porten, Klaudia (2013-01-22). "High levels of mortality, malnutrition, and measles, among recently-displaced Somali refugees in Dagahaley camp, Dadaab refugee camp complex, Kenya, 2011". Conflict and Health 7 (1): 1. doi:10.1186/1752-1505-7-1. ISSN 1752-1505. PMC 3607918. PMID 23339463. 
  5. ^ "Refugee Reports November 2002" (PDF) 3. 
  6. ^ Dan Van Lehman, Omar Eno. "The Somali Bantu: Their Culture and History" (PDF). Culture Profile No. 16, February 2003. Center for Applied Linguistics. Retrieved 23 July 2012. 
  7. ^ Salmio, Tiina. "Refugees and the Environment: An Analysis and Evaluation of UNHCR's Policies in 1992-2002" (PDF). 
  8. ^ "Norwegian Refugee Council homepage". 
  9. ^ "Sphere Humanitarian Standards". 
  10. ^ Daniel Howden (August 2011). "UN and Kenya attacked over $60m Somali refugee camp that still stands empty". 
  11. ^ [Mitchell Sipus] (December 2009). "Technology Based Development Opportunity Within Dadaab Refugee Camp, Kenya". 
  12. ^ "Plea for 'massive aid' for Africa refugees". July 10, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Inside world's biggest refugee camp". July 8, 2011. 
  14. ^ "UN High Commissioner for Refugees applauds Kenya’s decision to open Ifo II camp". UNHCR. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  15. ^ "Dadaab: The World's Biggest Refugee Camp". July 11, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Number of Somali refugees declining due to aid and rainfall". 
  17. ^ Gettleman, Jeffrey (3 February 2012). "U.N. Says Somalia Famine Has Ended, but Warns That Crisis Isn’t Over". New York Times. Retrieved 19 June 2012. 
  18. ^ "The worst drought in 60 years in Horn Africa". Africa and Europe in Partnership. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  19. ^ a b "560,000 Somalis to return home following tripartite agreement". Daily Post. 12 November 2013. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  20. ^ a b "Kenya softens its position on proposed closure of Dadaab refugee camp". Goobjoog. 30 April 2015. Retrieved 11 May 2015. 
  21. ^ a b "Interview: UN refugee chief stresses voluntary return of Somali refugees in Kenya". Goobjoog. 9 May 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2015. 
  22. ^ a b "The future of the world's largest refugee camp". ISS Peace and Security Council Report. 24 August 2015. Retrieved 4 September 2015. 
  23. ^ "Somalia President convenes Federal Parliament". Garowe Online. 27 April 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2015. 

External links[edit]