Even for relief workers in the area, nobody could have imagined the scale of human suffering now witnessed daily in Kenya. Desperate people who survive the arduous trek from Somalia to the Dadaab Refugee Camp arrive emaciated and often seriously ill.
For years, Siloam Christian Ministries have partnered with Childcare Worldwide to give relief aid in this area. ‘We have always distributed food and other essentials to the most needy. Yet none of us could have anticipated this,’ notes Siloam UK Director Richard Norton. ‘Refugees are flooding in on an unimaginable scale and each person, each family group, has their own terrifying experience of survival.
‘One of the women at Dadaab tells a harrowing tale of fear, hunger, pain and desperation. She was forced to flee from Somalia to Kenya as there was no other alternative unless she wanted to die.
‘Her husband was taken away from his family and forcefully recruited to join the militia which is fighting with the unstable Somalia transitional government. You can never resist such recruitment or you will be killed.
‘This Somali woman feared for her life and those of her five children. Since there was no one to protect them and there was no food, she began the long trek to Kenya. She managed to cross the border but, from there, it’s still a journey of 90 kilometres to Dadaab. And young children are so vulnerable. On the way, due to hunger and exhaustion, her children began to succumb. One after the other, three of the children died and all she could do was to dig a shallow grave, bury them and continue the gruelling journey.
‘With her two remaining children, she managed to reach the camp. They were totally emaciated and had to receive urgent medical treatment. Even though the camp is bursting at its seams, like the other refugees, this woman is surviving. The food is not much since the influx of the refugees has outstripped the UN rations but many of the refugees are glad to be in the camp due to the security and the little food they get.’
The living conditions in the camp are deplorable due to overcrowding. As relief workers carry out distribution, they have to carefully follow UN directions to avoid stampedes and uprising. Everyone in the camp needs more food than they are getting.
Conditions remain appalling because Dadaab Refugee Camp, the largest refugee camp in
the world, was built to accommodate 90,000 people. Tragically, the camp has been
swamped with almost 400,000 refugees. Each one of them knows the plight of fear, hunger and agony.
‘Our Kenyan Christian co-workers have always been on the ground to bring food and other essentials to the poor. Yet we’ve never experienced anything on this scale.’ said Richard Norton. ‘It’s the children who remain the most vulnerable. The UN has stated that at one refugee camp – not Dadaab – every day, an average of ten children under the age of five die. We’re earnestly seeking to avert further crisis. With this emergency of thousands of desperate refugees, prayer is requested for more funding to bring urgently needed food and medical aid to those in crisis.’
For information, please contact Siloam at www.siloam.org.uk or Tel. 01926 335037.