Naomi Steer, the National Director of Australia for UNHCR (the national association for the United Nations Refugee Agency), together with Thomas Mukoya, the Pictures Editor for Thompson Reuters East Africa gave a special presentation at Corrs, updating the firm on the East Africa crisis, on 8 December.

Naomi spoke about the plight of the thousands of displaced people in the Horn of Africa, many who have fled Somalia as a result of the worst drought in 60 years, ongoing conflict and now famine in southern Somalia. Displaced from their homes and villages, people are walking for hundreds of kilometres to reach the UNHCR-run refugee camps in neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia, where they know food and other basic necessities are being distributed.

Many of these refugees arrive acutely malnourished and some have lost family members during the arduous trek. Exhausted, they then join a queue of thousands of others who are waiting to be registered into the camps.

When people arrive in the camps their level of mal-nutrition is assessed, then they are given a plastic sheet for shelter or tent to sleep in, food (including the highly nutritious, protein based, Plumpy’nut) and basic amenities (such as cooking supplies) and medicine.

Currently in the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadabb in Kenya, there are over 450,000 people on record and thousands more who have not registered. The camp was originally designed for 90,000 people.

Naomi explained when the declaration of famine in East Africa was made on 20 July this year, it had the positive effect of mobilising the international aid community to scale up much needed support to Somalia and to navigate the many factions, clans and local leaders in Somalia to make sure aid is getting through.

Naomi believes aid organisations need to continue providing support to the area for at least another six to twelve months while food supplies become replenished.

Corrs staff generously raised almost $25,000 for the East Africa Appeal which the firm matched. Naomi thanked Corrs for this fantastic support.

“As an organisation and as individuals, you have been a wonderful support to us in many ways and I am really grateful for that,” Ms Steer said.

“Providing aid in East Africa is not easy, but it is possible,” Naomi explained. “We just need resources and co-ordination to keep it going. Your donation has gone a long way in the camps.”

Photographer Thomas Mukoya then shared some of the breath-taking images he has taken over the last few months in East Africa, explaining what he has seen and experienced in the camps and beyond.

Corrs partner and CEO John W.H. Denton is the founding chair of Australia for UNHCR.

Click here for more information about Australia for UNHCR.

Photo courtesy of T.Mukoya/Reuters

Reuters’ Photographer Thomas Mukoya

National Director of Australia for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Naomi Steer

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