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Update on the refugee camp that now lives in the sky

July 5, 2011
(Updates reaction from ECHO in paragraph 9) 


Screen grab of the introduction to the online game "The City That Shouldn't Exist"

A few months ago I wrote a story about a controversial online game posted on Facebook called the “The City That Shouldn’t Exist” that was consequently pulled off the Web days after its launch amid claims it objectified refugees and lacked sensitivity.

The game developed by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) with funding from ECHO, the European Commission’s humanitarian agency, and designed to raise awareness of Dadaab refugee camp on the Kenyan-Somali border, is now back online but with some noticeable changes.

Some features have been removed such as Mr. ECHO’s lover calling him “my hero” as he leaps out of bed on hearing an emergency siren go off. That was deemed too cheesy. You can still rescue or “drag and drop” your refugees as you do your supplies but instead of them walking towards a pile of bones, now they just walk towards a hole.

“My refugees were dying like flies because I couldn’t work out how to drag’n'drop supplies. Haven’t felt so stressed since I worked for ECHO!” posted Marianne Farrar-Hockley on the Facebook page hosting the game.

Screen grab on how to play the game

Winners of the game are no longer offered an expenses-paid trip to the real Dadaab. While the winning prize destination has yet to be revealed, all references to the 20-year-old camp have been taken out.

“We have taken out much of the drama from it because it is not really why we wanted to attract people,” Anders Knudsen, DRC’s campaign coordinator, told AlertNet.

The aim of the game, which cost 208,000 euros ($302,000) of taxpayers’ money to develop, was to inform young people about humanitarian aid activities and highlight the plight of the 332,000 refugees living in squalid conditions.

But it came under attack from aid agencies on the ground, some arguing that the message of the game could be interpreted to mean they did not want Dadaab to exist.

“For the moment it is very sensitive because there are negotiations to extend the camp,” Julie Laduron, ECHO’s communications officer, told AlertNet.

“We disconnected the game from Dadaab (so as) not to create trouble in the field and with the refugees.”

Both ECHO and the Danish Refugee Council admit this campaign may have missed the goal in the social media arena by trying too hard to appeal to young people across Europe while overlooking the feelings of the people in the camp themselves.

“I think it is much more legitimate to talk about a virtual refugee camp,” Knudsen said. “Making it a camp in the sky rather than any specific camp on the ground, that one we have learnt.”

Screen grab of Mr. ECHO at his console in Brussels about to save virtual refugees in the online Facebook game.



The fighting in Somalia which has left scores of deaths and many more displaced is a tragedy which no one can dare explain to others.However,this latest crisis due to the drought affecting millions of Somalis and has forced many to flee in search of food and clean water has taken another sad events in modern history and the international community who have been so generous are now turning a blind eye to this unprecedented crisis in Somalia.The so called al shabab terrorists groups who at first were not willing to allowing any food aid to enter the areas they control.Even though they know very well that they can not provide food for the people, shows how mentally ill these groups are.They also never realised that no man can live alone and no man is an island.Their aims are to topple the transitional western backed government and the implementation of sharia law through out the country,but that seems to be backfiring quickly.This is now the time for them to ask themselves this simple question:”Does fighting and fighting really worth the suffering of their people who are now desperately in need of food?While aid organisations are calling for help to prevent the massive deaths of the people in Somalia is it not time to down their weapons and work towards peace to rebuild that war torn country for over 20 good years in the making.Obviously the masks of these groups have fallen down and the darkest side of them is being exposed and will continue to do so.I am kindly appealing for the world not to ignore Somalia because of a group of terrorist who donot want peace in the region.Please help Somalia,please.

Posted by Asaki | Report as abusive

As If!!! Insensitive Aid worker stuff as usual from the “developed”. Clearly one has missed the point on the whole “humanitarian(ism)” rhyme and reason. Hope they find their peace … there in also will there be peace in many parts of the world experiencing conflict. We pray for Somalia.

Posted by Ions | Report as abusive

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