The African drought tragedy

The UN refugee agency head says the humanitarian situation in Dadaab is one of the worst he has ever seen.

DADAAB, KENYA – After three days at Dadaab, it is hard not to be affected by what you see.

The crying sick babies the young children caked in dust their mothers doing everything on their own their husbands either dead, or looking after what little they have left back in Somalia.

There are just so many stories of survival, but as soon as we spotted Habiba – a woman in her 90s – we knew her tale would be extraordinary.

Old and frail, with a walking stick in one hand and the other clasped by her daughter, Haretha, she walked all the way from the Somali border around a 100km away, and somehow these two women made it together.

It was love and a sheer desire to live that got them through clinging to her mother, Haretha told us “she is the only family I have”.

There are two problems here: firstly, the long distances refugees are travelling, journeys which take days or weeks. The other is that when they finally arrive, weak and hungry, there is no room Dadaab is full.

They have to be taken far away to the outskirts of the camp, where there is no security, little shade, and a distance away from the NGO’s that can help them.

Antonio Guterres, the UN’s refugee chief, finally got to see the situation for himself today.

He told me he has never seen anything so bad, and he is calling it a drought tragedy.

His words and energy will no doubt bring in international aid. But he knows, and all the journalists here know, that the way to tackle this is to get aid to the Somalis in Somalia, so they do not have to leave there to begin with.