This a new weekly roundup of humanitarian and development stories from around the web.

Above, the BBC’s Mary Harper reports on how aid agencies are working in Somalia, large parts of which are controlled by Al Shabaab.

The Independent in the UK published a scathing article claiming Save the Children refused to campaign against fuel poverty due to its donor ties with big oil - following a BBC documentary and whistleblower’s claims.

Save the Children has responded denying the claims and saying they try to harness “the power of the private sector.

The World Bank reports "policy bottlenecks" in Nigeria have led to gaps and inequalities in education. They recommend addressing these policies using a SABER tool developed by their experts.  

As the humanitarian sector is utilizing data gathering more and more to follow emergencies and help establish aid in crises, a new “crowd sources scenario planning” organization called FutureScaper has been created by MIT students. 

ECHO has reported IDPs in Central African Republic have reached 160,000 amidst new violence. And MSF’s General Director has said the aid community has failed in the region. 

If Syrians weren’t already having a rough last couple of years, refugees are now facing one of the worst blizzards in a decade to hit the region. Blizzard Alexa is hitting Lebanon and Syria, including at refugee camps at the border.

In an effort to clean up the government after 200 anti-government protesters were killed in September, Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, has reshuffled his cabinet. However, The Economist reports this has done more to remove cabinet who’ve gained influence and power in the country with closer allies to the president than to improve the country. 

The aid community has begun its first conferences to discuss the post-2015 development goals

Health care workers have been at the brunt of many recent attacks in conflict zones in the last few years. More data from the ICRC, among others, quantifies what this really looks like, raising awareness of the dangers faced by medical staff, which are some of the only aid workers in many conflict zones.



Today, #WorldRefugeeDay, the number of people who are refugees or displaced is at its highest level in 18 years.

Our December 2011 episode on refugees in Somalia: 

Somalia’s weak Transitional Federal Government, the Obama administration, and the United Nations have all blamed the anti-government group al-Shabab for restricting international aid operations in the areas they control. But is al-Shabab the only reason a drought and food crisis has turned into a deadly famine?

In the first of a two-part series examining the US response to drought and hunger in the Horn of Africa, Fault Lines travels to Mogadishu to meet refugees who have fled to the most war-ravaged city in the world to escape a worse fate, and the aid and medical workers struggling to help them. We examine the legacy of US engagement in Somalia and its efforts to address the current crisis.

And the second part of the series is here

After cameras and journalists turned elsewhere in the world, Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines went back.

Then in July and August, the world watched and international aid agencies scrambled as tens of thousands of Somalis fled famine and fighting in the devastated Southern part of the country, controlled by the armed group al-Shabab. And they continued to flee - to the Somali capital of Mogadishu, and refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia - in the following months, when the world seemed to lose interest.

Tens of thousands of Somalis have died and the UN has warned that three quarters of a million more are at risk of dying before the end of the year.

Somalia’s weak Transitional Federal Government, the Obama administration, and the United Nations have all blamed the anti-government group al-Shabab for restricting international aid operations in the areas they control. But is al-Shabab the only reason a drought and food crisis has turned into a deadly famine?

So little has been done so far. If the World Food Programme and other government agencies can’t help, let us help instead.  With the holidays coming up, ask friends and family to skip your gift for the year and instead donate to any of these organizations:


UN Foundation

Hope International

ONE also has a list of numerous other organizations



“I first went to the Dadaab refugee camp, close to the border between Kenya and Somalia, at the end of 2006. Strangely enough, the camp was flooded then. The same parched ground recorded in my photographs was covered by 3 feet of water. Then, people were fleeing from the camp, not fleeing to the camp as they are today. Dadaab has become the largest refugee camp in the world, and Kenya’s fourth largest city: 440,000 people have gathered in makeshift shelters, made of branches and tarps. Experiencing Dadaab again last week was profoundly humbling. I was confronted with deep suffering and need. Slowing down and talking to people, I heard stories of indomitable courage and determination and of making horrible choices. Most of these people have survived 20 years of war in Somalia, two years of drought, and it’s only now that they are fleeing their homeland. They are accomplished survivors. One morning, I was talking to a family of ten. I poured a full glass of water from a pitcher and passed it to a child. He took a sip, and passed it on to his brother and so on. The last one returned it to me with enough left for the last gulp. Even in the camp, they take only what they need to survive and share the rest. What you see on the surface looks like extreme fragility, but it’s actually tremendous resilience and the extraordinary affirmation of their will to live.” - Photojournalist Brendan Bannon, on his latest trip to the Dadaab refugee camp.

(via pantslessprogressive)

UN and Kenya attacked over $60m Somali refugee camp that still stands empty


The United Nations and the Kenyan government have come in for a fresh round of criticism for the continued closure of a multimillion-pound refugee camp that has been left empty despite the deepening humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been accused of misdirecting the media by renaming scrubland adjacent to empty facilities, rather than sealing a deal with Kenya to open up a camp that cost international donors $60m (£37m) to build and has been left locked since November last year. On a visit last month, the Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the camp would be opened by 24 July.

“To the thousands of desperate Somalis arriving every day, the sight of a fully equipped refugee camp standing empty must be the ultimate rebuke,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. The New York-based watchdog called on the Kenyan government to immediately open up the extra camp adjacent to the existing Dadaab complex of refugee camps in northern Kenya, which now shelters 440,000 people.

Despite massive overcrowding at Dadaab, a new camp called “Ifo 2” has been left locked and empty throughout the crisis. The UNHCR’s decision to relocate famine refugees to scrubland near Ifo 2 – slated for a future site – and rename the whole area “Ifo extension” has led to confused reports suggesting the new camp was in operation.

William Stirling, a UNHCR official, confirmed that the camps have “still not opened” but denied misleading the media. Further confusion has been caused by conflicting statements from the Kenyan government, which followed last month’s visit by Mr Odinga when he said that Ifo 2 would be opened on “humanitarian grounds”.

However, Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki reportedly told Jill Biden, wife of the US Vice-President Joe Biden, who visited earlier this week, that Somali famine victims should be helped on the other side of the border instead of flooding into Kenya. There are divisions in the Kenyan cabinet over allowing refugees to be housed in proper buildings at Dadaab with some ministers arguing it will encourage new arrivals and pose a security threat.

Humanitarian agencies at Dadaab have been frustrated by UNHCR’s refusal to admit it has no agreement on Ifo 2 with the Kenyan government. “They would rather move surreptitiously than bite the bullet,” complained one aid worker.

UNHCR officials have attempted to play down the difference between the Ifo 2 camp and the overflow area to where thousands of refugees have been moved. “I don’t see a huge difference between the sites,” said Mr Stirling who added that refugees would be accommodated in tents at either location and that water and sanitation was being provided.

United Nations: Refugee totals from Somalia reach devastating new highs


  • 860k the number of refugees from Somalia that have left the country due to the debilitating drought
  • 1.5M the number of refugees experts say have been displaced within Somalia by the drought
  • 12M the number of people the United Nations says need food aid within the region source

» To put this in perspective: In Somalia alone, experts say that 3.7 million people are directly affected by the drought — roughly half the population in some places. And to be clear, “famine” is a loaded term, but one the UN only uses when the situation meets a very dire statistical level — we’re talking malnutrition rates above 30 percent.

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(Source: shortformblog)


A BBC map detailing the drought in the Horn of Africa shows the incredibly large percentage of the Horn that is in danger. It also shows that the worst effects are concentrated in the South: the Al-Shabaab controlled areas.

This is particularly bad news, because Al-Shabaab, Somalia’s notoriously brutal Al Qaeda cell, is denying that there is a famine at all. Their spokesman, Ali Mohamud Rage said yesterday that the idea that there was a famine was “utter nonsense, 100 percent baseless and sheer propaganda.”  They say their ban on aid groups in the areas under their control would remain in effect. Meanwhile, nearly half of the Somali population faces a crisis that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said will take $300 million to address.

Read more at Al Jazeera and the BBC.