The road to Dadaab camp

by Christian Aid | Christian Aid - UK
Friday, 15 July 2011 14:25 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Siyada Gabo hadn’t had a harvest in 18 months in the Kismayu region of southern Somalia where she lived with her husband and two small children.  When the rains first began to fail the family began selling off their livestock one-by-one in order to survive. 

Two months ago, her husband left home to see if he could find some way of providing for the family.  When he failed to return Ms Gabo decided to make the long journey to the Dadaab refugee camp with her children.

She set off with Halima, 2, and Abdi, 3, and a donkey cart, heading for the border. All she had with her was a little money for the journey from selling off the last of the animals.

The donkey did not survive the month long trek, dying before the family reached the Kenyan border.

“There is nothing to go back to in Somalia,” she said, “I couldn’t even afford the journey”

She hoped to find cousins and other relatives in the Dadaab camp to settle with. Many of her neighbours had also fled the drought and fighting in Somalia.  The Al Shabaab militias were everywhere, she said.

Living in a refugee camp for the rest of her life seemed preferable to going back. There are many thousands of others who have lived in Dadaab for twenty years.

Ali Hussein, who manages one of the Dadaab camps for Lutheran World Federation said: “It is the farmers and pastoralists who are the last to leave. Professionals and people in cities who had the means to travel have already left. The situation in Somalia is catastrophic.”

LWF is a sister organisation of Christian Aid in the ACT Alliance, a global network of faith-based charities.

The situation is little better for many Kenyans living in the drought corridor far from the capital, Nairobi.

They too have faced failed crops and had to sell of livestock to survive. Travelling north the road is littered with dozens of cow carcasses. They are especially prevalent outside small towns. 

When water is scarce the men often travel with the herds in search of a water and grazing land leaving the women at home with a breeding stock. This drought has been so deep and prolonged, however, that instead of sending word to the women to follow them, many of the men never come back. The women cannot afford to feed the animals and the carcasses are taken outside the town because of the stench.

Photos by Sarah Wilson/Christian Aid