For Sara Ruto, the desperate yearning for electricity began last year with the purchase of her first cellphone, a lifeline for receiving small money transfers, contacting relatives in the city or checking chicken prices at the nearest market.
Charging the phone was no simple matter in this farming village far from Kenya’s electric grid.
Every week, Ms. Ruto walked two miles to hire a motorcycle taxi for the three-hour ride to Mogotio, the nearest town with electricity. There, she dropped off her cellphone at a store that recharges phones for 30 cents. Yet the service was in such demand that she had to leave it behind for three full days before returning.
That wearying routine ended in February when the family sold some animals to buy a small Chinese-made solar power system for about $80. Now balanced precariously atop their tin roof, a lone solar panel provides enough electricity to charge the phone and run four bright overhead lights with switches.
“My main motivation was the phone, but this has changed so many other things,” Ms. Ruto said on a recent evening as she relaxed on a bench in the mud-walled shack she shares with her husband and six children. Continue reading →
UNICEF urgently requires US$31.8 million for the next three months to provide humanitarian support to crisis affected children and women in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti
The Horn of Africa is facing a severe crisis due to the convergent effects of the worst droughts in decades, a sharp rise in food prices, and the persistent effects of armed conflict in Somalia, which has combined to trigger one of the sharpest refugee outflows in a decade to Kenya and Ethiopia. Over ten million people are at high risk including 2.85 million persons in Somalia, 3.2 million in Ethiopia and 3.5 million in Kenya.
• Urgent life-saving actions are needed to prevent the deaths of an estimated 480,000 severely malnourished children in drought affected Kenya, Somalia Ethiopia, and Djibouti. A further 1,649,000 children are moderately malnourished. All crisis affected persons are at high risk of disease outbreaks including measles, acute watery diarrhoea and pneumonia
• Full funding will ensure that vulnerable women and children will:
- receive treatment for severe acute malnutrition through provision of Ready- to-Use-Therapeutic Food at community level or at therapeutic feeding centers
- gain access to clean water through the repair of pumping stations, digging of boreholes, chlorination of water sources and water trucking
- receive vaccines against measles, polio and other deadly diseases
- resume education through temporary learning spaces and school-in-a-box kits
The Dadaab refugee camps in eastern Kenya are huge but they make themselves known slowly. After passing through the city of Garissa, you travel for a couple of hours along a dusty track and come to a derelict checkpoint. A soldier sitting in the shade waves cars past and goes back to chatting with the friends who have come to keep him company.
Beyond the checkpoint is the town of Dadaab, home to about 70,000 camel herders and farmers. Among this local population, refugees from all over Africa live in three locations. If you count them together, the trio of camps would be Kenya’s fourth largest city. Each one feels a lot like a city, too. They have internet cafes, pharmacies, auto repair shops, and bus depots. But then, people have had a long time to get settled in.
This year 2011, Dadaab will mark the 20th year since refugees started arriving here. Most are fleeing the war in Somalia, but others are citizens of Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia, even Zimbabwe. The United Nations Refugee Agency said in early December that Dadaab’s non-indigeneous population was now 300,000, a staggering number considering that the camps were originally built to house 90,000 people.
One of them is Mohamed Dahir, a camp elder. Visiting his home says a lot about what it means to be a refugee in Dadaab. His famiy has been here for years and there is no sign that anyone will leave anytime soon. The walls of his compound are covered with hundreds of U.S. AID vegetable oil tins flattened out and hammered together. The tops of oil drums have been cut off, sliced in half, painted blue or green or red and then laid around the buildings as decoration. We sit on straw mats under the shade of a tree where a cool breeze blows.