Courtesy of UNifeed
Situated close to the Somali border, the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya is the world’s largest. Designed to house about 90,000 people, more than 400,000 now call Dadaab home, with that number rising daily. While life within the camp is hard for all inhabitants, it is especially so for one group: child mothers.
Child mothers in Dadaab are forced to raise their children in a state of uncertainty. With depressingly little rations and access to quality medical care, or space for children to socialize and grow, mothers have little choice but to the see their children raised in confinement.
Many mothers in the camp are victims of rape and sexual violence, meaning that they are often scarred by their experiences. They often lack any sexual education.
To combat this problem, an organization called the Child Mothers Support Group (CMSG), run by Save the Children UK and supported by UNICEF, works with child mothers in Dadaab and their children,. The program’s goal is keep both mother and child healthy, and to prepare them for the rest of their lives; both inside the camp and beyond.
“I've seen girls who've I've handled, who came in so traumatized, their self-esteem so low, and through my interventions, and the group intervention -- I thought, if I bring support from other girls, that within a short time I realized that they are able to see a future in themselves,” said Kefa Muronga, a representative of the support group.
CMSG provides child mothers with safe spaces to bring their children to play and learn. It also offers free counseling, and vocational training in sewing classes. This gives the mothers a chance to both make sure that they and their children always have clothes, and that they have a skill set that can help them earn money.
“UNICEF and Save The Children have provided us with skills, like tailoring, as well as shoes and school uniforms for our children,” says one Ethiopian child mother. “We also received lamps so we can read to our children at night. My child comes to the child-friendly space to play, and loves it.”
This work makes life more tolerable for some of the most vulnerable of Dadaab’s residents, by providing them with greater opportunities to improve their lives amid hard conditions. In so doing, child mothers and their children are given the gift of hope for their futures.