‘Tempers can fly. We are telling mothers and children to line up in excessive heat so they can get their food. Once in a while, crowd trouble breaks out.’
Michael Chilla is Care International’s senior safety and security manager at eastern Kenya’s Dadaab camp, the world’s largest refugee camp.
Originally designed to host 90,000 refugees from the Somali Civil War (the Somalian border is 100km to its East), the camp had a peak population in 2013, of 500,000 people.
Today, despite a period of less intense, more geographically-limited fighting in Somalia, and voluntary return by some Dadaab residents to their homeland, the camp’s population is still 400,000-420,000 people.
And those people urgently need food and water to survive. Michael says: ‘Water and food are life. If for some reason food can’t be provided any more and water can’t be distributed, then that society will fall into anarchy very quickly. The repercussions of that situation will be quite overwhelming.
There will be deaths. The youngest people will starve.’ Part of Care International’s work in Dadaab is to provide that food and water – and in doing so, to help ensure that not only are the camp’s residents healthy, they also live in a secure environment.
But to do so, the organisation’s own staff must be safe and secure enough to do their jobs each day. And that’s where RedR UK comes in. Michael says: ‘The main threats to our staff at Dadaab come from kidnap and also the potential of being attacked with improvised explosive devices. ‘Recently, we went through an incident whereby one of our drivers was kidnapped. We believe that the people responsible were actually interested most in the car, but they took him away as well. He was taken to somewhere in Somalia. ‘It was a critical incident. For some time, we suspended all our work at Dadaab. We held a full review of all security activity and considered what would need to happen if we were to go back.
‘What came out very clearly was that we need to train all staff in security.’
RedR UK trained more than 600 Care International staff using a specially-tailored package developed for the organisation. Michael says: ‘The training means the staff are far more comfortable and confident now when they go about their day-to-day duties. It is not a matter of forgetting that there is always danger there, but they are now more confident and know what to do and how to react in difficult situations. When you feel secure, you can do your job better.’