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Voices from Dadaab

Voices from Dadaab

Published: June 6, 2012

John Bongei of AFSC's Somalia Emergency Relief Program traveled from Nariobi, Kenya to Dadaab Refugee Camp in Northeast Kenya to visit participants in AFSC's programs. Following the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa AFSC set up a program to respond to the needs of the influx of refugees.  

In May 2012, I went to Dadaab refugee complex. Sitting in a plane going high above the rugged terrain and mountains, the various passengers sat chatting for most of the ride and the time passed quickly. After about an hour’s ride, we landed on the ground covered with thick, red sand. The air was heavy with dust and as the wind died down and the dust began to settle; the kilometers of tattered, white tents were revealed. These tents are the homes to 463,000 refugees, mostly from the neighboring country of Somalia. AFSC’s partners staff who work at Dadaab refugee camp greeted me warmly upon arrival.

In July 2011, AFSC commissioned an assessment of Dadaab refugee camp and the findings led AFSC to reach out to the newly arrived refugees in Dadaab through cash relief, trauma healing and provision of equipment to people living with disabilities.

On the afternoon in May I travelled in a hired car in the company of three partner agency staffs to Ifo West and Ifo East (two of the Dadaab camps) to hear the stories of AFSC’s beneficiaries of the cash relief project. I sat down and talked to some of them. They were thrilled at a chance to be listened to. A theme I heard repeatedly in our conversation was insecurity in Somalia and in Dadaab refugee camps. When I asked mothers and fathers about their journeys to the refugee camp, most, if not all, would tell horrific stories of loss and unrelenting hardship. When I asked what gave them the strength and motivation to keep walking, unfailingly they would say they needed to provide either themselves or their children with food, but also with security. I learned that the people in the camp are resilient, with a strong desire for their children to survive and to stay safe.

They need continuity of cash relief, income-generating activities and they are carefully planning and then using the little money that they received from AFSC.

“I have no words to thank AFSC for their support. It came at just the right time and will make such a big difference,”
- Abdullahi Yusuf, program participant at Dadaab Refugee Camp

More stories from people in Dadaab


Hariet HambeMr Hariet Hambe is 60 years old. He loaned part of the cash he received from AFSC to a friend who needed to travel back to Somalia. He wants to start a goat business and is waiting for the security situation to improve in the camp. He used to be a livestock trader in Somalia and believes the same business opportunity is possible in Dadaab. His five sons were killed in Somalia and is now cares for his deceased brother's four children.



Fatuma IbrahimFatuma Ibrahim is 65 years old and arrived in Dadaab on September 2011. Fatuma left her home in Kismayo when she lost everything due to drought and famine.



Isaac AdenIsaac Aden, a shop owner from Kismayo, came to Kenya in August 2011. He is 49 years old and a father of six. Isaac and his son Abdullahi were helped by wheelchairs that AFSC distributed throughout Dadaab refugee camps. Though Isaac now moves easily within the camps, he still feels life in the camp is not fulfilling. Issac wants to obtain the capital another shop in Dadaab. He goes on to say, “I am happy I can move easily, but I need a stable source of livelihood in order to support my family.”



Khadija MuhumedKhadija Muhumed is 75 years old, from Somalia and arrived in Dadaab camp with her 5 children 10 months ago. In 2011 Khadija's husband was killed when he refused the recruitment of their son into a militia group. A few days later, the same militia stole all her livestock.