Kenya: Voices From Dadaab

Aged 39, from Mogadishu, arrived 15 days ago

“I arrived here 15 days ago, with six members of my family. Our bags were empty, but my heart was very heavy. We have a piece of land, here in the ‘new arrivals’ area, but we’ve got nothing to build a shelter with. We’ve got no plastic, no tents. We have registration cards, but we still haven’t received any food rations. It’s very unsafe here: at night we’re scared that wild animals will eat the children, and we’ve had threats of violence from local people who say the land is theirs. Where there’s no security, there’s no life."

Aged 30, from Kamasoma, arrived five months ago

“It took us two days to get here from our home in Kamasoma. I had three reasons for leaving: the violence, the drought, and the flooding. I brought my four children, who are aged from two to ten, but I had to leave my husband behind. He’s still in Somalia, but he will join us shortly—he has a mobile phone, so we can speak to each other. We’re staying in block G10 in the camp, with relatives, but we’re hoping to get our own plot of land. The children go to school here—Islamic school in the morning and primary school in the afternoon—except for Mahed, who is two. I’ve brought him to the clinic today as he is underweight—he weighs 9.3 kg (20.5 lbs) —and his leg is swollen. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that I don’t want to go back to Somalia.”

Aged 39, from Sirko, arrived the previous night

“I arrived in Dagahaley last night. I came here with my mother, my wife Fadullah and our five children: the youngest is six months and the oldest is nine. The journey, which cost us $250, took nine days, travelling in overcrowded minibuses. We brought nothing with us but the clothes we were wearing. In Somalia, where we were farmers, all of our animals died because of the drought. While there was no actual fighting in our town, an armed group was in control, and was demanding that we pay them taxes. I couldn’t pay the taxes they asked for, so we realized we had to leave. I was terrified of armed groups stopping us on the journey and preventing us from crossing into Kenya. On the way, we had to hide. Now I’m here, I feel safer.
We are staying with my sister, and her family of eight, while we wait to find our own place to live. We hope to get some basic utensils from the UNHCR, but at the moment we are relying on my sister’s family for everything. They are sharing their rations with us so that we can eat. Dagahaley is where I plan to stay. My only plans for the future are for my children to get an education, and for me to find a job—as a guard or a hawker—so that at least I can earn my own living.”

From Sirko, arrived the previous night

“With my husband dead, and our way of life in Somalia destroyed by the drought, I felt I had nothing more to lose. Only three of my seven children are living: two daughters and a son, who brought me here. I brought nothing with me. My only hopes are for shelter, water and safety, and to have my basic needs fulfilled.”

Aged 25, from Uforow, arrived here 16 days ago. She gave birth to premature twins the previous day in an MSF vehicle on the way to hospital

“I’ve already got two children: a boy and a girl, aged two and four. I haven’t decided on a name yet for my twins. They were two months premature, and it was a difficult labor. They weigh 1.7 kg (3.7 lbs) and 1.9 kg (4.2 lbs). We have only been here for 16 days. My husband and I had a horrific eight-day journey from Somalia, which cost us seven million Somali shillings ($4,500). On the way we were ambushed by bandits. They kept us prisoner for two nights in the bush and stole the rest of our savings, about two million Somali shillings ($1,300). Now we are staying with relatives in the ‘new arrivals’ area. We have registered as refugees with the UNHCR, but we still haven’t received any food rations, and we are relying on relatives to feed us.

In Somalia our family kept livestock—goats and cattle—but they all died in the drought. Even if the central government returned, I wouldn’t go back. The conditions we lived in were very cruel and harsh, so it would be difficult to go back. I intend to stay in Dagahaley, and I hope for a good life, with enough food, water, and everything life depends on. I hope my family will be supported and my children will grow up, go to school, get educated, and do well.”

Aged 30, from Jilib, has lived in Dagahaley for three years. The previous day she gave birth to twins Khadija and Amina, in MSF’s maternity ward

“I’m 30, and I already have five children aged from two to 12. We left our home in Jilib three years ago. There was heavy fighting in the town—it was chaos—and the family all fled in different directions. I lost my husband in the confusion, but—with my mother and children—made for Kenya, hoping to meet up with him in one of the camps at Dadaab. It was a year before I found him. Now I live with my mother, husband and two brothers-in-law. The future will be whatever God proposes, but I hope my children will be healthy and will grow up and get educated in a good environment. I think Dagahaley will be a good place for them to grow up.”

60 years old, a host refugee
Date of arrival: 1992
Family: She brought six of her children with her; two are still in Somalia; no husband
Homeland: Kismayo, Somalia

“I travelled on foot as part of a large group who were fleeing at the same time. We entered Kenya via the border town of Dobley. I live off the rations that I am given and have no additional source of income. I feel secure here and do not want to return to Somalia where I had lived as a nomad. Three months ago my son, who had originally remained in Somalia, joined me in Dagahaley with his wife and their three children. I have been giving them shelter on my land.”

20 years old
Date of arrival: January 2010
Family: Husband and four children
Homeland: Kismayo, Somalia

“We fled from Somalia due to drought and insecurity. On arrival, we shared Howa’s rations, but we are now registered and have own rations—even if we share part of it with our cows that we brought from Somalia. My husband makes some small additional income by looking after cows. We used to live a nomadic lifestyle in Somalia, and we are happy here for the time being. We can access health, education, and other social services free of charge for the first time.”

20 years old
Date of arrival: 2009
Family: Her 11-month baby, her husband, her husand’s first wife and a grandparent
Homeland: Lower Juba

“My husband has lived on this plot of land for several years with his two wives, each of whom has her own home on the plot. I am his new wife. My 11-month-old baby was born in the MSF hospital. I came from Lower Juba and I left because of the drought, the insecurity, and the rules being imposed by the militant group in control of our area. I am a housewife and I stay at home all day while my husband earns money selling goods on the street. For the past three months, we have been hosting our cousins, a family of eight, on this plot.”

40 years old, a newcomer
Family: Husband and five children

“We live in a small shelter on this plot with my husband and five children. My father also came with us and is staying in another shelter on the same plot, as it is not socially acceptable for him to sleep in the same place as his son-in-law. In Somalia we were famers, but there has been a drought and we left our homes to come to Kenya. I wasn’t affected by the fighting. I hope eventually to have my own plot in the camp, and I have recently registered, which means I now have my own rations. My five children don’t go to school. We stay at home and my husband tries to makes some extra income by transporting people’s goods on his wheelbarrow.”

Aged three, and her mother

Uban was the first patient to be seen at MSF’s new health post, Health Post 8, which opened in the ‘new arrivals’ area on 15 March 2011. Her mother brought her here because she has diarrhea and is refusing to eat. Health staff wanted to take Uban and her mother to the Intensive Therapeutic Feeding Center in the hospital, but her mother said it wasn’t possible as she had too many children at home and no one to take care of them.

Aged 49, from Bardera, has lived in Dagahaley for the past five years with her husband, three daughters and three grandchildren

Every week, Akow walks the two hours from her block to the clinic to see a doctor for her high blood pressure. This week she complains of suffering unspecified pains in her body that stop her from sleeping at night and from going to the market in the day. She went to a traditional healer, who attempted to cure the pains in her back by burning the skin, and to cure the pains in her legs by making cuts with razor blades to let out the blood. This was four months ago, and though the burns and cuts have healed, the pains continue.