DADAAB, Kenya, 7 September 2011 – UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Youssou N’Dour met children in the Dadaab refugee camps in north-eastern Kenya earlier this week, hearing for himself some of the many stories of suffering amongst the more than 435,000 people who have fled to the camps to escape famine, drought and insecurity in Somalia.
|VIDEO: 5 September 2011 - UNICEF correspondent Anja Baron reports on Goodwill Ambassador Youssou N'Dour's visit with Somali refugee children and families living in camps in Dadaab, north-eastern Kenya. Watch in RealPlayer|
Mr. N’Dour visited a UNICEF-supported therapeutic feeding centre run by the German development organization GIZ, as well as schools that opened for the start of a new term this week in a partnership between UNICEF, the UN refugee agency and CARE International. More than 220,000 of the Dadaab camps’ residents are children, about 150,000 of school age.
As the UN this week announced a doubling of the number of people affected by famine inside Somalia, to 750,000, Mr. N’Dour stressed the need for increased humanitarian assistance to Somali refugees – and to all those affected by the crisis across the Horn of Africa.
|UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Youssou N’Dour smiles as he listens to a girl at a school in the Dagahaley camp for Somali refugees in Dadaab, north-eastern Kenya.|
“UNICEF and the other humanitarian agencies are doing everything they can to reach those who need their help,” he said. “We have a responsibility to do all that we can so that every child can be reached, their immediate needs are met, their health is safeguarded and they are protected from all harm.”
‘Africans for Africa’
One of Mr. N’Dour’s stops was at an Illeys – or ‘The Light’ – school in Dagahaley camp, where 4,000 children have enrolled for the new school term with teachers from within the refugee community. He was especially moved by Sophia, 15, a refugee girl who sang a song entitled ‘Africa, Land of Freedom – Africa, Cradle of Mankind’ about her hopes and vision for a better Africa.
Speaking later, Mr. N’Dour echoed Sophia’s appeal, noting that African leadership, through African people and appropriate mobilization, could be at the forefront of support for all those affected by the crisis in the Horn. He dubbed such an approach ‘Africans for Africa.’
|A severely malnourished Somali boy sits on his father’s lap at a stabilization centre at the Ifo refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. The centre is managed by the German development organization GIZ.|
Mr. N’Dour added that he hoped others from outside the continent, especially young people, would be inspired by such an initiative and come forward with their own contribution.
Breaking the cycle
Looking ahead, the Senegalese singer, composer, bandleader and producer also called for concerted efforts to break the cycle of drought, insecurity and poverty that regularly afflicts the Horn of Africa.
“African nations, African figureheads and African communities, alongside other world leaders, need to prioritize lasting solutions,” said Mr. N’Dour. “That means strengthening governance so the right investments are made in basic services, championing peace so that people are no longer forced to flee their homes and livelihoods, protecting the natural environment so that people’s way of life is sustainable, and empowering local communities, from where the process of change will emerge.”
Crisis in the Horn of Africa
In Kenya, school offers meals and shelter