(ERGO) – More than 5,000 Somali refugee children living in IFO2 camp in northeastern Kenya’s Dadaab are feeling frustrated by the closure of schools there, as other children in Kenya start a new term.
All 10 primary schools and the only secondary school in IFO2 camp are closed, according to Siyaad Ali Goldhow, a member of the camp’s education committee.
The UN’s refugee agency UNHCR earlier announced that IFO2 would be shut by the end of March and that the refugees living there would be moved to other camps in Dadaab where there are services.
Hawo Ali, 36, still living in IFO2, told Radio Ergo that three of her seven children aged between eight and 14 used to go to the local Mwangaza School. They are now at home feeling discouraged by the interruption of their education.
“The reason I have been in the camp eating wheat and sorghum every day is because of their education, and now we don’t even have that!” said Hawo, expressing her disgust at the lack of services as well as the staple food that is not of most Somali refugees’ preference.
Hawo and her family fled from Salagle in Middle Juba region in 2011, when drought and crop failure caused famine in the area.
According to a survey conducted in IFO2 from 4 – 6 April, almost 70% of the respondents said they do not want to go back to Somalia because they do not wish to interrupt their children’s education.
There are almost 20,000 families remaining in the camp. The seven health centres and the hospital that used to provide free health care were also closed at the end of March. Patients, including pregnant women, have to travel to a hospital in IFO1 camp, five km away, or to Dhagahley camp, 10 km away.
Bakaal Adan Khayrow, 53, told Radio Ergo that his wife, Sahro, gave birth to their eighth child in the camp on 15 April. As he could not afford the $40 round trip to transport her to one of the hospitals, she had to give birth at home guided by a traditional midwife. Bakaal said his wife was now suffering abdominal pains and headaches whilst the baby was not feeding well.
UNHCR spokesperson Assadullah Nasrullah told Radio Ergo they hoped to speed up efforts to move the remaining refugees in the coming weeks to enable the children to go back to school. He said UNHCR has provided plastic sheeting to the families remaining in IFO2, as some of them have started taking down their huts ahead of the anticipated move.
Assadullah Nasrullah said there was a ban on the sale and transport of new building materials including timber so it had been agreed with the camp leaders that people would take down their current housing to move with these old materials.
The Kenyan government has stopped registering new arrivals in Dadaab and has frequently stated that it intends to close the refugee camps.