The drought in East Africa is the worst in 60 years.

Posted by admin on Jul 12, 2011 in OXFAM | 34 comments

We haven’t lost a child for 12 days but the starving and the sick keep pouring in

Says charity Doctor

From BEN JACKSON Environment Editor, in Dadaab, Kenya


ONE-year-old Abdinur Bare lies in the hospital bed by the door.

How she will leave it, at this moment, no one knows.

Her grandmother Hawa, 40, watches the child cling to life with eyes that fail to hide her turmoil.

Across the hallway they are busily caring for 60 starving children in two intensive care wards.

The drought in East Africa is the worst in 60 years. More than 10million people are now thought to be affected, across Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.

As the three-hourly “therapeutic milk” feed arrives, two pinpricks of light in Abdinur’s eyes give us all hope – though her desperately emaciated frame drains it away.

Everywhere along the ward, children and their parents sprawl beneath blue mosquito netting.

In total across Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, nearly 120 children live like this.

“We haven’t lost a child in 12 days,” says Antoine Froidevaux, the field co-ordinator for Médecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) “but we are seeing more malnourished children arrive every day.”

In this camp – crammed with nearly 370,000 people – he fears many of the most starved children never even make it to the wards.

He also warns that the camp itself has become a danger to those it struggles to protect.

“It has become far, far too big for what it is meant for,” he says.

“A few days ago a survey found that many children on the outskirts of the camp are now actually more malnourished living around the camp than after they first arrive.”

Yet thousands continue to come – many from as far as 260 miles away.

“Many of the children who arrive are sick as well as starving, says Antoine. “They have complications including measles and diarrhoea.”

We are in Dagahaley, one of three different camps within Dadaab.


Malnourished ... grandmother Hawa feeds Abdinur Bare 'therapeutic milk'

Malnourished … grandmother Hawa feeds Abdinur Bare ‘therapeutic milk’


“Now there is talk of a fourth and fifth camp to expand the huge refugee city here,” Antoine continues.

“Ironically, if these people are still here by the time the wet season arrives many in the outlying camps are living in flood-prone areas.”

A few miles away it is easy to see the problem: A nation is on the move. Marching out of Somalia’s drought and away from the violent rule of militia group al-Shabaab, today’s new arrivals show up.


'Shock' ... actress and Oxfam Ambassador visits refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya

‘Shock’ … actress and Oxfam Ambassador visits refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya


A total of 1,300 arrive each day, 800 of them children.

Many who stand outside the wire fences around the camp realise it can no longer cope.



They claim to have been waiting for days, weeks even, for help and supplies. Many beg from refugees inside to survive.

In the queue to enter the camp two children, Adam Abdi Kadir, 14, and his sister Habiba 12, wait patiently, hoping to be registered.

Their parents died of starvation months ago. They have travelled for 15 days with a neighbour to be here.

They are still strong and, as children, are likely to get in quickly.

Theirs is a heartbreaking but common story – but it will not be long before they discover few favours await them in this city of the lost

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