Refugees standing in line waiting for aid to be dispersed.
Photo: Christine Mbito
Countries in the Horn of Africa are facing the worst food crisis in the world today and Somalia is the hardest hit. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, drought, conflict, and skyrocketing food prices have produced this tragic situation. The UN has declared a famine that affects southern Somalia. This is a rare designation and its use highlights the severity of the crisis.
Before this famine began, AFSC was working in the Dadaab refugee complex on the Somalia-Kenya border and with local partners inside Somalia to support lasting peace efforts. Now, our work is adapting to help people survive the humanitarian crisis.
AFSC’s Somalia program officer Christine Mbito visited Dadaab July 25-28. With more than 450,000 people - and over 1,200 arriving each day - Dadaab has a larger population than Minneapolis MN which was 380,000 according to the 2010 census.
Christine describes what she witnessed:
“Until the moment we arrived in Ifo camp (one of four in the complex), the realities of the plight of these innocent human beings was just a blur to me. I had to steady myself just to take in what suffering I saw. .. hungry and exhausted people, fathers, mothers and their children.
“Farah (the translator) and I worked our way toward the newest arrivals in line, most of who were sitting due to sheer exhaustion. An aid worker walked up and down the long, spiraling queue, monitoring the refugees to escort them demonstrably unwell to the medical facility.
“We went to Hagadera Camp, where we spoke with two men who have lived there for over 7 years. They are also feeling the current drought and food shortages. They are also grappling with another vice, shrewd businessmen from Garissa and Nairobi who have now arrived in Dadaab to take advantage and buy their dying livestock at incredibly low prices. They are being offered prices for one cow that mirrors the price of two chickens in a Nairobi supermarket! One said, ‘We have grown our livestock to very large herd and are faced with only one option - to sell them off before they die!’”
Read more stories about refugees in Dadaab.