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Somali Refugee Mental Health

Somali Refugee Mental Health

Leloba Pahl

on 10 April 2011

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Transcript of Somali Refugee Mental Health

Somali Refugee Mental Health
En Route to Dadaab
Long history of refugee flows to and from Somalia
Major refugee movements in 1980s: 450,000 Ethiopian
refugees in Somalia; 350,000 Somalians to Ethiopia
Population shifts of nomadic pastoralists
Persistent movements cause severe mental stresses
1988 – 600,000 refugees fled Somalia
1991 – 900,000 fled to Ethiopia and Kenya
2006 – 35,000 left for Dadaab
2009 – 120,000 Somalis displaced to Dadaab
since May 2008
Dadaab: 90 km journey from border with Somalia
Today: Threats of violence; 1.3 million Somali IDPs
289,500 now in Dadaab camp
Opened in 1991 with a capacity of 90,000 refugees
Camp registers new arrivals and assigns them to a corresponding ethnic block
Majority Somalis arriving
Arriving at Dadaab
Population also includes:
Sudanese, Rwandans,
Ugandans, Congolese,
Ethiopians, Eritreans
and Djiboutians.

All children under age 16 are immunized and given vitamin supplements by GTZ staff
Registration card also serves as WFP ration card and health card

Overcrowding and constant new arrivals
Size of camp expected to reach 300,000;
Average of 6,500-7,000 arriving monthly
Waste management: 300 metric tons of solid waste per day
Major improvements needed: water, health, education
Kenyan government reluctant to comply with pleas from UNHCR
Idleness of refugees
Camp security: murders and crime
Prospects for resettlement
Dadaab Issues
Life in Dadaab
Three camps: Hagadera, Ifo, and Dagahaley; only 30,000 people intended for each camp
Bi-weekly food distribution by the World Food Program
Heavy strain on camp infrastructure
Water shortages
Many hazards common to camp life
Children attend school in shifts; provided by CARE
Single hospital in Hagadera has one doctor
- IRC community health posts offer basic services
No major mental health care initiatives
Mental Health in emergencies
Mental and physical health are inseparable
In 1980, PTSD for mass violence introduced
Today, aid organizations have components of mental health
Divisions of Mental Health
Addressing Mental Health Issues
Psychological element
Psychiatric Support
Supportive Counseling
Social component
Practical support
Community education, mobilization, and activities
Marginalization of people of Somali heritage
Exclusion from Refugee management policies
Legislative antipathy in the asylum process
Access to Land
1992- Abrogation of obligation
Feb 2009- Promise to allocate land
Nov 2009- Negotiations Stalled
Kenya's restrictive Immigration Laws
Judicature Act of 1967
1973 Alien Restictions Act and Immigration Act of 1967
OAU Refugee Convention of 1969
Mental health and psychosocial problems in emergencies:
Relevant Legislation and Implications
for Protection
Donors: Educate donors about the benefits of mental health programs and their ability to be more sustainable and reduce future costs
Kenyan Government:
1) Follow through with promised land allocation
2) Allow for the drilling of additional water holes to meet international
humanitarian standards
3) Allow refugees to start new enterprises within Dadaab to other refugees
to reduce social stressors
International and Local NGOs: Focus on social mental health issues to prevent long term costs of psychological care by including integrated mental health programming in service delivery.
"Buufis amongst Somalis in Dadaab: the Transnational and Historical Logics behind Resettlement Dreams"

The Somali word buufis is commonly used in the Kenyan refugee camps of Dadaab, referring to a person's dream of resettlement and the consequential psychological effects when this dream cannot be reached. Buufis is triggered by the flow of remittances and information throughout the region with which refugees in remote camps like Dadaab can compare their lives to. It is argued that Buufis is more intense and elaborate amongst refugee communities with a strong culture of migration, like the Somalis.
Cindy Horst; University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam Institute for Metropolitan and International Development Studies (AMIDSt), Nieuwe Prinsengracht 130, 1018 VZ Amsterdam, Netherlands
Outline of Presentation
Background information on Somalia and its refugee population in Dadaab refugee camp (Kenya)
Mental health in emergencies and its application to Somali refugees
Policy concerns in relation to Somali refugees in Dadaab
Socially-rooted mental health disorder or Psychologically-rooted?
Implications for Protection
Restrictive process for gaining entry into Kenya
Legislative animosity leads to lack of accountability
The Convention on the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugee states that:
" [O]wing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it."
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Functioning Among Somali Refugees: Mediating Role of
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