The Future of Refugees

Figure 1refugee children. Image source: visualhunt.com

Freedom. A word used to express the lack of a specific constraint. Most people are free to move from place to place. It is easy for them to acquire a passport, move to a nearby country and settle there. However, for some this document is hard to achieve. They go through a long process and some even give up the chase. It is even harder when one is a refugee.

According to the United Nations high commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Sub Saharan Africa serves as the host to twenty-six percent of the world’s refugee population. This is due to drought, crisis and conflicts and attacks witnessed in various countries such as Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan.

These refugees are denied the chance to lead a normal livelihood. Their chances for survival are determined by the aid they receive from various organizations so as to see the day go by. Aid offered involves basic needs such as food and clothing. Housing structures in refugee camps are a sore sight. What most fail to understand is the huge impact refugees have to the economic growth of a country.

Refugees are more likely to drop out of school five times as much compared to the non-refugee scholars. One basic reason is the necessity for them to offer assistance and support to their families in terms of household chores and work. Lack of hope due to the poor livelihoods sees most of them have the dream of only surviving.

Communication is essential if learning is to take place. Most refugee scholars who attempt to attend school are only familiar with their native language. The fact that they come from a variety of countries and do not share a common language also serves as a barrier when it comes to learning at the camps. This serves as an incentive to drop out of school. Those who had attended schools prior to being at the refugee camps cannot account for their previous transcripts prompting them to drop out as evidence of previous formal education is invisible.

Despite the efforts by various organizations such as the UNHCR, UNICEF, and CARE in providing free schooling the dropout rate at the primary and the secondary levels stand at a hundred percent. There are a few who are resilient enough to endure this. Foni Joyce, whose parents fled from South Sudan as a result of the war in 1991 fought against the identity ‘refugee’ and secured her tertiary education. She secured a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and runs youth empowerment and mentorship initiative.

Figure 2Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. Image source: pixabay.com

The largest refugee camps in Kenya are Kakuma in Turkana County and the Dadaab refugee camp in Garissa County. Population in these camps keeps soaring higher yet the livelihoods of the people do not change.  As of 2014 Kakuma camp had a population of sixty thousand refugees. Due to the ongoing tension between the locals and the refugees’ conflicts are likely to occur occasionally. This is attributed to the poverty level in the area. The fact that the population keeps increasing, the need for more land, as well as cattle rustling, triggers some of these conflicts.

Malnutrition and Communicable diseases are also common in these camps. Given that the areas are arid and semi-arid dust is an everyday problem. This leads to curfew hours and most afraid to attend their classes. Hence the dropout rates.

The solution is worst for young people. The next generation. They are robbed of the chance of living life as they should be. They have a future that is uncertain. Their talents, untapped. These young people serve as potential gear to economic growth. But they are marginalized and forgotten. The few who make it, are committed, resilient and self-driven. This helps to overcome the barriers.

Figure 3Turkana people of Kenya. (Credit: IRIN/Gwenn Dubourthoumieu)

The climatic conditions have not made the situation easier for learning either. Average temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius which only drop to lows of thirty degrees Celsius at night are the order of the day. Dust sweeping winds or occasional floods when the rain pours are the only seasons.  This makes it hard for young refugees to go to school. Agriculture which is practiced in other parts of the country cannot be practiced here.

There is a decline in resources as the population of refugees soars high. This is because of the competition of meager resources with the area locals and no replacement is done. The results, environmental degradation.

Revenues that would be used to foster the growth of these people is converted to aid in terms of basic needs. The question is, with the growth in population how many more decades are organizations such as the European Union (EU) going to feed the refugees? Reliable aid is not a permanent solution to sustaining refugees.

We must admit that this poses a threat to sustainability. It is not a refugee problem but a ‘US’ problem. The government should instead invest in wasted talent. These children should be given hope, they should be taught how to live on their talents, and flexible school hours due to the effects of climatic change should be implemented. Parents should also be encouraged to take their children to schools. In a bid to change the public perception of refugees, UNHCR initiated the ‘artists for refugees’ project in 2015. Artists such as Octopizzo and Victor Ndula. Such projects should continually be encouraged and supported.

Local communities should be included in decision making as it affects both parties. Given the investment in technology. Drought resistant crops should be taken to the people and agriculture practiced. This will see malnutrition levels decrease and farming introduced which may pave the way for economic growth and a sustainable future for the refugees.

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