Refugee Girls Falling Through the Cracks

Originally posted on AidBuzz.

As the world takes some time to reflect on the growing refugee crisis in many parts of the world, I’m taking a minute to think about some of the “lost refugees” who, for most people, are totally invisible. Medecins Sans Frontieres recently published a report that Dadaab Refugee Camp in north eastern Kenya is completely full – and by the end of the year will be home to over 450,000 refugees. These refugees are primarily from Somalia, but also from conflict ridden parts of Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

450,000 people. Think about that for a second.  Dadaab, based on its population, is the third largest city in Kenya – and to put it in perspective, the world’s largest refugee camp has a higher population than Miami, Atlanta, or Cleveland.  In one of my previous jobs, I spent a good amount of time in Dadaab and can tell you that conditions in the camp are horrible. But people’s lives somehow do go on.  Most refugees get essential services from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – and the countless non-governmental organizations working tirelessly to bring a small glimmer of hope to people who have fled their homes to save their lives.

But what about the people who slip through the cracks? The people who are essentially refugees from refugee camps? These people often do not get anything from UNHCR, are forced to fend for themselves, and do not have Angelina Jolie as their Goodwill Ambassador. They are people who are in some of the worst situations in the world.  They have seen their families killed in front of their eyes but somehow made it to Kenya. Then they were harassed, attacked and raped once they got to the refugee camp. They knew they couldn’t stay in the camp, so they found their way to Nairobi and tried to find a way to survive.

These people are often 15, 16, and 17-year-old girls.

Luckily, there are a few small organizations helping these girls rebuild their lives. One of these amazing organizations is AJWS grantee Heshima Kenya. The organization recently created this short video that highlights their work.

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Even if it is the only thing you do to mark World Refugee Day, take a few minutes to see what a small group of innovative and dedicated people can do to help these girls chart a better future.

And if you want to do more, consider supporting Heshima Kenya’s Maisha Collective—a program that helps girls develop vocational and business skills. The Collective just began selling a line of colorful and funky scarves online and 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to the girls who make them.

Do your part to make these girls’ struggles and triumphs known to the world.