A mapping technique commissioned by IOM has found that 85 per cent of drought-affected Somali refugees and host pastoralist communities are using nearly 1,230 kilometres of unofficial border routes to reach help at Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, highlighting the many dangers they face as a result.
The aim of the assessment using the Geographical Information System (GIS) mapping technique was to identify the routes taken by refugees and pastoralist communities to reach Dadaab, located 100 kilometres inside the eastern Kenya/Somali border.
Carried out in late September, the assessment was also to identify measures needed to counteract the rape, theft, extortion and sometimes death faced by the refugees and pastoralist communities due to dehydration and lack of medical attention along the route.
According to UNHCR, about 152,000 Somali refugees have fled to Dadaab since January this year. Only 10 per cent or 120 kilometres of official routes – which lie along the main road from Harar to Garissa – was being used by the refugees to reach Dadaab.
However, both unofficial and official routes lacked requisite water provisions, medical facilities, rest points or security monitoring centres, leaving refugees and pastoralists at the mercy of unscrupulous guides who extort large sums of money to provide navigation services.
The IOM assessment recommends establishing mobile water points, particularly along official tracks, to address the dehydration suffered by the refugees and pastoralists. In addition, it recommends active and passive disease surveillance during and after the migration process to curb the spread of disease amongst accompanying livestock.
To address the rape and extortion of refugees, the report recommends the establishment of a police task force in partnership with host communities along the pastoralist migratory routes.
With rising tension, and at times conflict between host pastoralist communities and refugees over scarce water resources, the assessment recommends the establishment of an effective early warning system to mitigate the impact of drought and to learn more on available water sources used by both groups.
“This has been an extremely valuable exercise as it will enable not just IOM but also other humanitarian and government agencies to identify areas that need urgent assistance and resources,” says IOM Chief of Mission, Ashraf El Nour.