Deafness is no obstacle for refugee team in Dadaab

Telling the Human Story, 9 August 2012

These refugees in the Dadaab refugee camps have shown that a hearing disability is no hindrance to playing sports; next up for the football team is a tournament in Nairobi.

DADAAB, Kenya, 9 August (UNHCR) The cheering from their fans is unlikely to have much effect on this football team drawn from the five sprawling refugee camps at Dadaab: all the members of EL-MAN DEAF FC have limited or no hearing.

That has not stopped them playing well. Earlier this month showing the Olympic spirit on a dry desert field far from the rain of Britain -- the team easily defeated a team of NGO and UN players 2-0. Tomoya Soejima, a UNHCR Youth Officer who works closely with the team, saw the victory as instilling further confidence.

The team is now ready to travel this month to the capital, Nairobi, to compete in a national tournament organised by the Kenyan football Federation of the Deaf (KFFD), in what for many players will be the first time they have left the refugee camps of north-eastern Kenya.

"I always dreamt of participating in a tournament and of bringing home a cup to my community," said Hussein Abdulai, the assistant coach who fled Somalia for Dadaab in 1991 and works as a primary school teacher in Ifo Camp.

'I remember the first ball we played with was made out of plastic bags and scrap paper. We started training every day and sometimes even joined the tournaments of 'hearing teams.'

"Years later we heard about the national tournament for the deaf and we immediately thought that this is our chance," he said. "We contacted Handicap International and asked for support. This is how it all started."

There are more than 12,000 people living with disabilities across the Dadaab refugee camps, which host a population of more than 470,000. Most suffer more than the average refugee and face challenges to access services because of discrimination or practical obstacles related to their disabilities.

"Very few agency staff and police officers know sign language, which can easily lead to confusion and miscommunication," said the first coach, also called Hussein Abdulai but from Hagadera camp. "One major concern is the insecurity in the camps with regular shootings and explosions of Improvised Explosive Devices.

"If there is a bomb exploding or if someone approaches me from behind how shall I know? I sometimes cannot fall asleep because I am afraid that something will happen during the night and I will simply not hear it."

It is therefore even more impressive when a team such as EL- MAN DEAF FC emerges, mobilizing supporters from all the camps.

"The players train once or twice per week in Ifo, Dagahaley and Hagadera camps and on the weekends, they all get together from the respective camps and have inter-camp tournaments, often also against "hearing" teams and they still win," said Natha Yare Bashir, the team manager.

Many organisations and private donors have helped refugees to develop their skills in sports, including Nike, Right to Play, Handicap International, CARE, Alive&Kicking and UNHCR.

UNHCR and its partners launched the Dadaab Sport Initiative 2012, which reached out to more than 10,000 youths who were out of school to provide training, workshops, and equipment. Across the camps women, girls, men and boys play volleyball, football and other sports

Sport is important, not just for physical fitness but for strengthening the bonds between people. In the refugee camps and surrounding areas sport has become an important way to build peace and give people confidence in their skills and worth as human beings.

"We will give our utmost to succeed in the tournament," said a smiling Hussein Abdulai. "But even if we lose, we will still make Dadaab proud."

Bettina Schulte, Andreas Kiaby and Tomoya Soejima in Dadaab




UNHCR country pages

People with Disabilities

People with disabilities remain largely invisible or forgotten in their uprooted communities.

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

Over the weekend, UNHCR with the help of the US military began an emergency airdrop of some 200 tonnes of relief supplies for thousands of refugees badly hit by massive flooding in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya.

In a spectacular sight, 16 tonnes of plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, tents and blankets, were dropped on each run from the C-130 transport plane onto a site cleared of animals and people. Refugees loaded the supplies on trucks to take to the camps.

Dadaab, a three-camp complex hosting some 160,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia, has been cut off from the world for a month by heavy rains that washed away the road connecting the remote camps to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Air transport is the only way to get supplies into the camps.

UNHCR has moved 7,000 refugees from Ifo camp, worst affected by the flooding, to Hagadera camp, some 20 km away. A further 7,000 refugees have been moved to higher ground at a new site, called Ifo 2.

Posted in December 2006

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

New Arrivals in Yemen

During one six-day period at the end of March, more than 1,100 Somalis and Ethiopians arrived on the shores of Yemen after crossing the Gulf of Aden on smuggler's boats from Bosaso, Somalia. At least 28 people died during these recent voyages – from asphyxiation, beating or drowning – and many were badly injured by the smugglers. Others suffered skin problems as a result of prolonged contact with sea water, human waste, diesel oil and other chemicals.

During a recent visit to Yemen, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller pledged to further raise the profile of the situation, to appeal for additional funding and international action to help Yemen, and to develop projects that will improve the living conditions and self sufficiency of the refugees in Yemen.

Since January 2006, Yemen has received nearly 30,000 people from Somalia, Ethiopia and other places, while more than 500 people have died during the sea crossing and at least 300 remain missing. UNHCR provides assistance, care and housing to more than 100,000 refugees already in Yemen.

New Arrivals in Yemen

The Gulf of Aden: Sharp Rise in Crossings and Deaths

The number of people arriving on the coast of Yemen after being smuggled across the treacherous Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa has more than doubled this year. So far this year, more than 18,000 people have arrived in Yemen across the Gulf of Aden, and nearly 400 have died attempting the journey.

This surge in arrivals is largely due to the continuing conflict in Somalia and the use of new smuggling routes from Somalia to Yemen and across the Red Sea from Djibouti. Many of the new arrivals also tell of crop losses due to drought, which forced them to leave home. This photo set focuses on those people leaving from Djibouti.

UNHCR has been calling for increased action to save lives in the Gulf of Aden and other waters. We have stepped up our work in Yemen under a US$17 million operation that includes extra staff, provision of additional shelter and assistance, and protection for refugees and internally displaced people.

Posted on 20 May 2008

The Gulf of Aden: Sharp Rise in Crossings and Deaths

Kenya: A Lifetime of WaitingPlay video

Kenya: A Lifetime of Waiting

Sarah was born and raised in Hagadera refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Now 21, she has become a wife and mother without ever setting foot outside the camp.
Somalia: UN High Commissioner For Refugees In MogadishuPlay video

Somalia: UN High Commissioner For Refugees In Mogadishu

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visits Mogadishu, expresses solidarity with Somali people on eve of Ramadan.
Somalia: Solutions For Somali RefugeesPlay video

Somalia: Solutions For Somali Refugees

In Kenya, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres discusses solutions for Somali refugees.