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Jesús Vázquez Revisits Somali Refugees, Kenya - UN

UN Goodwill Ambassador makes return visit to Somali refugees in Kenya

6 August 2008 - Fulfilling a promise he made to Somali refugees last year, Jesús Vázquez made a return visit to a camp in Kenya in his first field mission since being named a Goodwill Ambassador last month for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Mr. Vázquez, a well-known Spanish television presenter, was warmly greeted by residents of Ifo camp with songs and dances in north-eastern Kenya, near its border with Somalia. UNHCR and its partners are helping more than 200,000 refugees in the area, most of whom have fled Somalia's devastating civil war.

"When we learned about your TV campaigns and your support from Europe, we knew you were not (just) one of the many whites that come to visit us with their cameras," one of the camp elders said upon the Ambassador's arrival.

Mr. Vázquez hoped to be able to capture images to use to raise awareness of the humanitarian situation, and was especially moved by the refugees' enthusiasm for education.

"I believe that education is the most precious gift that we can offer to the youth," he told residents at the Ifo camp, one of three in Dadaab. "I know that many of you walk eight kilometres a day to go to and from school and that you share one book among four or six pupils."

Given that many Somali girls drop out of school at 13 to get married, the Ambassador urged leaders, teachers and students to enhance their efforts to boost the number of girls in school.

"A piece of my heart stays with you, but I return with my batteries recharged, and with the conviction that investing in education is preparing the next generation to contribute to peacebuilding."

Prior to reaching Ifo last week, Mr. Vázquez, accompanied by a television crew, stopped at UNHCR-backed projects in Nairobi and the Rift Valley.

The Ambassador also assessed progress made on efforts to set up a radio station, for which he has raised nearly half a million dollars. The initiative is not moving forward as quickly as UNHCR would like due to complex procedures involving several Government bodies.

In a bid to speed up the station's launch, he met with senior Government officials in Nairobi, who expressed their support for the project.


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