Inside world’s biggest refugee camp

Somalis in Dadaab aren’t just fleeing the drought that has killed their livestock, but also ‘blood and war’.

I have been to refugee camps before, but nothing on the sheer scale of Dadaab. The camp was only supposed to house tens of thousands, but according to the latest UNHCR figures there are now more than 370,000 people here.

An additional 10,000 or so people still unregistered – add that to the 1,000 or more arriving every single day.

The facility is just huge – split into three sections by kilometres of dark golden sand, swirling in the wind. One of the most famous of inner camps is called Dagahaley, this is where many of the people who have walked for days, first arrive.

What really strikes you is just how many women and children there are. Their faces, hands and feet covered in dust that has turned their skin a greyish colour. It is estimated that 80 per cent of the Somalis coming are women and children.

One family I spoke to told me they had walked for five days, without any food or water. Still, they waited patiently in line, for their turn to be taken into the UNHCR registration centre.

The process is still long and bureaucratic, with the Kenyan government fingerprinting each and every refugee. Things are improving, and emergency food is getting to people a lot sooner.

Children, particularly those under the age of five are seen to very quickly. This is because they are the most severely malnourished according to UNHCR, mortality among young children has trebled.

One of the worst cases we found in Medecins Sans Frontieres’ main hospital is a very sick little girl called Abishira, severely malnourished and with a fever.

Her father, Abdi Cadri Abdulrahman, sat on her bedside just looking on, hoping his daughter makes it . “Of course it makes you sad seeing your child like this,”  he says.

He, like many Somalis you speak to, describe being stopped by al-Shabab on their way to the border and told to return to their homes.

They weren’t just fleeing the drought that has killed their livestock, but also “blood and war” he says.