Horn of Africa Drought: A Vision of Hell at the Dabaab Refugee Camp

Ben Brown, Telegraph (London), July 9, 2011

It is more like a city than a refugee camp. It sprawls for 30 miles, and its population could soon be a staggering half a million. This is Dadaab, Africa’s fastest-growing population centre–and all for the wrong reasons.

Drought and famine throughout the Horn of Africa is driving hungry and exhausted people from hundreds of miles around to this arid corner of northern Kenya, in the hope of finding food, medicines and water.

For the last week I have been reporting on these disturbing scenes–a crisis which has now led to international agencies declaring an emergency and appealing for funds.

There are not nearly enough tents for all who arrive. Emaciated refugees construct makeshift shelters out of branches and scraps of plastic. All around them, vicious winds whip up choking clouds of red dust. On the parched earth where it has barely rained for two years, the carcasses of dead animals lie everywhere: dried-out pastures have become the graveyards of this drought.

Livestock are everything to people in this part of Africa–their investments, savings and income all in one. When the animals start to die, so too do the humans.

Dadaab might seem like a vision of hell and yet, day after day, refugees flock here from Somalia–trekking with their families through barren lands for up to a month.

“We had no choice but to leave our homes,” said Aden Issack Ibrahim, who talked to me as he walked along a dusty road to the camp, an exhausted child perched upon his shoulders. “The journey has been too tiring, we were chased by wild animals. It was terrifying.”

Aden Issack Ibrahim was one of 30 people who had all decided to leave Sakow, their village in Somalia. The children were barefoot, clutching empty water canisters. Between them, the villagers only had a handful of possessions, including a single live chicken.

“Our children haven’t eaten for days,” said Ibrahim, “and we are tired and hungry. We are begging for help from the UN, from anyone in a position of power.”

He said his village had no future. It had become an arid wasteland like so much of Somalia, where the rains have failed two years running and famine may not be far away. The twin curses of drought and endless civil war had convinced them they had no choice but to leave.

There are harrowing stories of people who have made the journey to Dadaab. Some are raped and robbed along the way, others are chased by hyenas. One woman had six children, all of them too frail to walk. She was determined to get them to the camp, so she carried them two at a time, shuttling back and forth for the others she had left behind.

Another couple walked for 22 days with their sick baby daughter–no sooner had they arrived at the camp than the child died.

Some of those who arrive here are classified by aid workers as “unaccompanied children”: either they have become separated from their families on the journey, or they’re orphans.

Abdi Salam and his sister Aisha said their father died in Somalia’s civil war several years ago, and that–last month–it killed their mother too. They walked with another boy all the way to Dadaab. “It’s better here because back in Somalia there was war we had no relatives left,” said Aisha.

In the refugee camp, Save the Children have organised for the children to stay with a foster mother–another refugee, who’s been here some time. “Now at least we have someone to look after us,” Aisha smiled.

Dadaab camp is already grotesquely overcrowded and becoming more so by the day. There are insufficient latrines and conditions are becoming insanitary. The infant mortality rate has tripled in recent months. Aid workers are stretched to the limit and Kenya’s Commissioner of Refugee Affairs, Badu Katelo, is alarmed that this part of Kenya is being swamped by refugees.

“Food distribution is overstretched, water is overstretched, shelter is overstretched, space itself is overstretched and the security situation is getting worse,” he said. “We would like to see a vibrant, committed intervention by the international community.”

But the horror of Dadaab doesn’t really hit you till you walk into a makeshift clinic runs by the aid agency Medicins San Frontiers.

In the Intensive Therapeutic Feeding Centre, a boy stands naked by his bed, defecating. He has chronic diarrhoea and his father says he ate mud on his journey here because he was so hungry. He has wounds on his face where medical staff believe witch doctors have tried to cure him on his journey to the camp. Some babies scream as needles are rammed into their tiny arms.

Some are too weak even to cry out when they’re injected. Toddlers vomit, and retch out the paltry contents of their stomachs. Wrinkled skin hangs off their bones, rib cages jut out and big bulbous eyes stare at you forlornly, flies buzzing around them: it is a clichéd image of African despair from which the world hoped it had moved on, but in Dadaab it is the reality today.

The clinic’s “Death Book” is a register of those who have succumbed to their malnutrition, and to related diseases. On some days, two or even three names are scribbled down, alongside the age of the infant and the cause of death.

“We just give them the best we can, we can’t save everybody,” said Dr Christopher Karisa. “Some of them die on the walk to the camp, some die in the ward–just immediately after we receive them. What we’re doing here, it can seem like a drop in the ocean, but the ocean will be a drop less if we don’t do it.”

Each death is a blow to the doctors and nurses who work here around the clock and against the odds, but they know they must keep going. “If you keep on thinking about the child who’s died, then you’ll lose others,” said Dr Karisa. “You have to switch that emotion off and continue. It’s hard but you have to do it.”

Katharina Andrey, a Swiss nurse with MSF, has also been shocked by what she’s seen.

“When I first got here, I said to myself ‘Oh my God!'”

Last week she held a child as it died, and she cried with the baby’s mother. “It’s very hard. The baby was just dying, so I took it I tried to do something but it died in my arms and that’s really hard to cope with. It may be hard to go back to work, but it may be a motivation as well because I’m here to improve things.”

Miss Andrey said that if mothers have several children, sometimes they are prepared to let the weakest die–they don’t want to have to spend days looking after them in hospital, because that would mean they couldn’t care for the rest, or collect food and water for them.

Abu Bakar, a Kenyan relief worker for MSF, admitted it’s a common problem. “We’ve had some families who had already prepared children for death so we had to intervene and tell them no, this is not possible, this child is still alive, and he can make it, so you have to give us a chance to try. We have to negotiate with them, it’s very hard.”

Another aid worker begged the world to wake up to the unfolding emergency in the Horn of Africa.

“One refugee without hope is too many,” said Dr Edward Chege. “These children don’t know what’s happening to them at the moment and they absolutely need our help.”

Beyond the fences of the camp, the drought has ravaged many more lives–an estimated 10 million people will need food assistance, according to the UN World Food Programme. But not everybody has been enthusiastic about this weekend’s appeal for funds by the Disasters Emergency Committee.

Some analysts have argued that drought is a way of life in the Horn of Africa, and that climate change is making rainfall here less and less frequent. It’s even been suggested this region may ultimately become uninhabitable, so scarce are the rains these days.

Others argue that western aid agencies should do more to provide long term food assistance to the region, rather than the “sticking plaster” of emergency relief.

But such arguments seem distant and, perhaps even esoteric, when you are staring into the eyes of a dying baby–as I have done too often in the last few days.

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  • LibertarianRealist

    Here’s a pretty good overview of what Africa is like and the world will increasingly become:

    “Somewhere in the Jungle‏”

    http://youtu.be/fT0PHsfFRlg

  • Mark

    What is it with white people can’t they see these blacks are nothing like us at all and they have no desire to change.

    It doesn’t matter Africa or Chicago their mental thought process is always the same. THEY ARE NOT LIKE US WHEN WILL PEOPLE GET THAT?

    Thomas Jefferson and Lincoln both are quoted as saying, “they should not be held as slaves BUT they will never mix with the white race” how right these two gentleman were.

  • Bandmo

    This is because the evil White man stole their diamonds and gold. Just tell me that some starving proud black African wouldn’t gladly trade a peice of shiney stuff he found stuck between his toes after wandering around in the jungle for something to kill and eat for a $35 axe from “Wal-Mart.

  • Anonymous

    This is indeed horrible and heart-wrenching, but the blame for this does lie squarely on western nations who fed the present adult generation of Africans through the famines of past years, allowing the population to continue to explode, resulting in many more deaths now.

    As hardhearted as it may sound, I believe all aid to Africa’s benighted nations should be halted, and let Mother Nature take it’s cruel but corrective course.

    Also it makes NO sense to be sending aid to other continents as long as one American child is going to sleep homeless or hungry. Put our own house in order before meddling with other’s affairs.

  • SKIP

    “For the last week I have been reporting on these disturbing scenes”

    Disturbing to whom? I certainly do not mind visions of starving Africans and black African muslims….in fact, it does my heart good but some apprehension is involved too since I know there are religious isiot Catholics and Lutherans that would bring all those FN trouble makers to the U.S. right now if they can get away with it.

  • eduard

    Stop interfering with Nature taking it’s obvious course. The world is overpopulated and these third worlders are nothing but oxygen thieves. They have or never will invent, or contribute to civilization or discover anything. They are but parasitical useless eaters. There is a saying that goes around: “As hy staan dan steel hy, as hy le dan teel hy” which means “if he stands he steals, if lies down he breeds”.

  • Anon

    Somalia been in trouble for a very long time, and much of it has to do with the character of the people. I once read an account written by a man who’d lived in Eastern Africa for many years, and who got to know three sets of people very well, namely the Maasai, the Bantu, and the Somalis. The Maasai, though the most primitive, were the most reasonable, he said. They acted like adults. The Bantus were more culturally advanced, but they were childish and unreliable. As for the Somalis, they were the absolute worst, utterly malicious and self-destructive in their behaviors. Considering the book was written well before the Somali wars broke out, it was very prophetic.

  • Majuba

    This is a perfect opportunity for Bishop Tutu to mobilise the philosophy of “Ubuntu” he gleefully extols to the west.

    “Ubuntu” is the African concept of all for one – one for all where the community takes care of itself.

    —————————————————

    Harsh as this may sound, this is the reality of certain parts of Africa

    Black African societies lived in balance and harmony with nature until the arrival of western medicine.

    Today an on-going population explosion constantly creates and abundance of non-producers that the west is regularly called upon to save.

    Where are the “black diamonds” that are in control of the governments of neighbouring African countries?

    Where is the support and aid they can provide for their fellow man?

    No doubt some spin doctor will emerge from this group of incompetents and castigate the west for not doing enough.

  • Richard

    This is stupid, no matter what we or anyone else does, this continent will never change, and these “famines” are just a reminder of how backwards that place is. We’ve already pumped Billions upon Billions into that place and nothing changes.

  • Zach Sowers

    Cannot Bono and George Clooney liquidate their vast fortunes and feed these wastrels? When Bono is pfennning-less then I will consider giving a dollar to feed him.

  • Anonymous

    1 — LibertarianRealist wrote at 6:28 PM on July 19:

    Here’s a pretty good overview of what Africa is like and the world will increasingly become:

    “Somewhere in the Jungle‏”

    http://youtu.be/fT0PHsfFRlg

    —————————————–

    Thank you for the video. When will most Whites wake up to their own genocide?

  • BJohnson

    The meddling by white people in Western countries, has made this humanitarian crisis worse than it should be. Nature should be allowed to take its course. If Darwinian natural selection is allowed to operate, the higher IQ Somalis will figure out how to survive the drought, while the numbers of low IQ Somalis will be reduced. I know that this view sounds cruel and heartless. But giving free food to the lowest IQ Somalis will cause a population explosion, which will result in even larger numbers starving to death in the future.

    Poor Somalis have no access to contraceptives, which can allow them to plan their families. If you believe in human dignity and human compassion, you should support making contraception widely available for the Somalis. Beyond that, Western interference will only make things worse.

    The Somali women show more common sense than the white do-gooders of the West. The above article notes that:

    “…Miss Andrey said that if mothers have several children, sometimes they are prepared to let the weakest die—they don’t want to have to spend days looking after them in hospital, because that would mean they couldn’t care for the rest, or collect food and water for them…”

    What is happening to the Somalis, happened to white people in the past. Millions of Europeans died from starvation and disease over the millenia. There were no aid agencies to bail out those starving and sick Europeans. The Great Famine that affected Europe between 1315 to 1322, killed about 25 percent of the European population. The Black Death killed between 30 percent to 50 percent of Europe’s population, between 1348 and 1375. In the 14th Century, Europe lost more than half of its population to starvation and disease.

    The more intelligent Europeans, who survived the disasters of the 14th century, brought about the Renaissance, which revived European culture, science, and civilization. Present day white people are the descendants of Europeans who survived disease and hunger over the millenia, and have subsequently created a culture that prevents widespead disease and hunger from taking root in white countries.

    If nature is allowed to take its course in Somalia and Africa, higher IQ people in that culture will have better opportunities to survive and increase their percentage of the population, and improve the chances that Africans may create some sort of civilization in the future. But the liberals want to keep the blacks dumbed down, by encouraging the dysgenic breeding of the lowest IQ blacks, so that they can be dependent on white liberals for welfare, relief food, and food stamps. Is this what liberals call compassion?

  • Nate

    This is the way these people live, they can not be changed.Many many whites much smarter then me have tried and failed. If foolish whites let Nature Take Her Course the problem would disappear much as other Dark Ages creatures have.

    As whites we always seem to have Our Nose in somebody else’s business, when will we finally realize the whole world doesn’t want to live as we do.

  • jack in Chicago

    BJohnson argues that the (White) West should leave Africa alone and let nature take its course and the population, environmental problems will supposedly correct themselves.

    This is a very dangerous Western idea that everything will be OK if we leave the Blacks alone, leave the Muslims alone to live the way they traditionally live in THEIR OWN COUNTRIES.

    History has shown that the non White world, the Muslim world has never, ever left Whites alone and these people do not subscribe to the White European notion of the nation state. 9th century Muslims in North Africa went/invaded Spain and Southern Italy. Muslim Turks invaded and enslaved Greece, large parts of Central Europe. Non White/Muslim populations are always moving – for the suffering, starving hordes on the Horn of Africa – why would these people want to stay in their own terrible places when they can go live in Minnesota or Sweden?

    Here’s the BBC movie – based in large part on Jean Respail’s terrifying novel Camp of the Saints. The wretched of Africa decide to March on the rich, White West and simply move to our nations and share the good things we have.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUvx_rhIias

  • shaunantijihad

    Fleeing “civil war” eh? You mean you were fleeing the results of the Islamic supremacism to take the country for Allah and impose the stone age Sharia Law.

    And what will Abdi Salam and his sister Aisha do if they get into Europe or the USA? Why promote Islamic supremacism to take the country for Allah and impose the stone age Sharia Law.

    And so it goes on until the white race is gone, or, until this generation says NO MORE.

  • Anonymous

    14 – Jack in Chicago

    The invasions you describe involved Eastern and Western cultures that were roughly at a technological parity, not to mention the distances were much shorter.

    I highly doubt the Africans and Arab Muslims will ever be able to amass the air and naval forces required to invade North America. Geography has always been the best friend of the United States.

  • Europhile

    In spite of war, poverty, starvation, and drought, the Somali population continues to explode, made possible by white do-gooders. The extent of suffering in these hopeless African countries is magnified immensely by Western meddling, but the Aid Industry won’t admit it.

    Somalia population numbers from the World Bank:

    1960: 2.819 million

    2009: 9.133 million

    For an interesting description of the attitudes, behavior and ungratefulness of Somali refugees in Holland, check out Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book, Infidel.

  • Anonymous

    I have no sympathy for them at all. Let nature take its course, as it did for centuries in Europe. What Africans fed the Irish in the 1840’s? In any case I find Somalis the absolute worst immigrants in the world and I certainly don’t want any more of them. Leave Somalia alone and keep Somalis out of the west. A total disconnect.

  • Laager

    Irish journalist Kevin Myers, writing in the Irish Independent stated the following:

    Harsh as they were, my views on Africa had to be expressed

    by Kevin Myers

    Last Friday week, with famine approaching yet again, I wondered about the wisdom of forking out yet more aid to Ethiopia.

    Since the great famine of the mid-1980s, Ethiopia’s population has soared from 33.5 million to 78 million. Now, I do not write civil service reports for the United Nations: I write a newspaper column, and I was deliberately strong in my use of language — as indeed I had been when writing reports from Ethiopia at the height of that terrible famine.

    So the result of Live Aid, Band Aid and Live 8 (3rd benefit concert) doubled the numbers of a population incapable of taking care of itself.

    What this means to the west is that their aid budgets have now doubled to save the lives of these non producers

    For his troubles Myers was villified and censured by the left wing liberal PC mob for being “racist” No one came to his defence for simply stating the blindingly obvious.

    Google/Wikipedia will lead you to the full saga

    It is interesting to note that the Live Aid series of concerts were all initiated and organised by white artists.

    I recall listening to an interview on a UK radio station where black artists complained about the level of representation they had on one of the concerts

    If they feel so hard done by why did they not organise these events to take care of their brothers in the first place?

    Same old story – blame whitey for everything even when he is trying to help blackie.