Secretary General Elhadj As Sy visits Dabaab refugee camp in Kenya to see the work of the National Society

Publié: 4 septembre 2014 17:45 CET

By Benoit Carpentier, IFRC

After witnessing the extends of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and Guinea, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ Secretary General, Elhadj As Sy, visited the Kenya Red Cross Society, one of the leading National Red Cross Society on the African continent.

On the first day of his visit, Mr Sy went to Dadaab, at the border with Somalia where the Red Cross operates in the biggest refugee camp in the world. It is home to more than 400,000 people. “This is not my first visit to Dadaab, but I am always shocked to talk to young people – people in their 20s – who were born in the camp. They have never been out and only know the camp,” he said.. “But I am really pleased to see the communities involved in the response, growing their own gardens, or helping their peers by volunteering for the Red Cross. This integrated approach is the only sustainable solution as it builds a future for those populations for when they will go back home”

With more than 180 local staff involved, the Kenya Red Cross Society is engaged in several activities in the camp from providing clean water to communities and distribution of relief items to the provision of health care in the hospital that opened last year and is now fully operational.

Abbas Gullet, Secretary General of the Kenya Red Cross Society, said the hospital had become the reference in the region and is serving refugees as well as the host communities. “In the past 23 years of the camp’s existence patients would have to be transported to Garissa or Nairobi for specialized medical care, now they have this hospital,” he said. “Despite the challenges, the Kenya Red Cross continues to work with the communities in Dadaab.”

In Nairobi, Mr Sy visited the operational centres of the Red Cross, their new ambulance services, logistic centre and operation room.

“I am very impressed by the quality of the work that is been done here. There is a high level of professionalism. Staff, volunteers and management are dedicated and believe that they all have a role to play in helping those in need,” he said

The Secretary General also praised the role that the National Society plays in sharing its knowledge and experience to other National Societies so that they can build their skills and capacities through peer training.

His visit ended with a meeting with the Minister of Foreign affairs, Ambassador Amina Mohamed. They were joined by several ambassadors, members of the diplomatic corps and by most of the UN agencies representatives present in Kenya.

“We are proud to have an African leader as the new secretary general of the IFRC. We know that when there is a disaster, the 17,000 volunteers of the Kenya Red Cross are ready, and are often responding before us,” Ambassador Mohamed said. “We are also very pleased to see that the IFRC has launched an appeal for the food security issue that we have in Kenya and in the region. We will work together to make sure that we don’t witness the same tragedy than in the 80s, when so many lives were lost.”

Mr Sy mentioned that the IFRC launched this appeal to ensure the Red Cross was the first to arrive and the last to leave during a crisis.

He also asked the Ambassador Mohamed to be the voice, the ambassador of the Red Cross at the African Union and at the United Nations. “We will always be there, on your side, to accompany you in your actions for vulnerable people, and we commend you for providing space for hospitality for the refugees and communities in need,” he said.