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No Way In: Refugee Camp Full

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This is Dadaab. The camps were established 20 years ago to house up to 90,000 refugees fleeing from Somalia’s civil war. Today they are home to more than 350,000 people, and the numbers of new arrivals keep on growing. © Natasha Lewer / MSF

Stranded in the desert of Kenya’s northeastern province, surrounded by mile upon mile of sand and scrubby bushes, 30,000 people are living in makeshift shelters under a burning sun. The families – having crossed the border from neighbouring Somalia, 80 km away – are headed for the refugee camps of Dadaab. But the three camps in the Dadaab area are already full, and there is nowhere for them to stay.

On arrival, the refugees – most of whom are women and children – have no money, no food, no water and no shelter. It takes 12 days, on average, to receive a first ration of food, and 34 days to receive cooking utensils and blankets from the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, which runs the camps. Until then they have to fend for themselves in a hostile environment. read more.

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In the northeastern desert of Kenya, newly-arrived refugees from Somalia are living in flimsy shelters made out of sticks, string and plastic sheets. © Nenna Arnold /MSF

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This is Dadaab. The camps were established 20 years ago to house up to 90,000 refugees fleeing from Somalia’s civil war. Today they are home to more than 350,000 people, and the numbers of new arrivals keep on growing. © Natasha Lewer / MSF

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Fatima, 60, arrived in Dadaab last night, after a nine-day journey. With no more space available within the camps to build a home, she is staying with her daughter’s family, in a shelter in the desert. “I left Somalia because my husband was dead and my way of life was destroyed. I felt I had nothing more to lose,” she says. © Natasha Lewer / MSF

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The shelters provide some respite from the sun and constant dust. But newly-arrived refugees have to wait 12 days, on average, for food, and more than a month for other essentials like blankets and cooking utensils. © Nenna Arnold /MSF

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Water in the camps is pumped from beneath the desert. But there is never enough to go around, and refugees have to queue for hours to fill jerrycans at the tap. © Nenna Arnold /MSF

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Medical staff from Médecins Sans Frontières go out into the desert every day to find those refugees who are in urgent need of medical attention.

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Forty percent of the children have never had any vaccinations, raising the risk of disease outbreaks. © Nenna Arnold /MSF

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A baby is checked for signs of malnutrition, which is common amongst the under-fives - a result of the drought in Somalia, the hardships of the refugees’ journeys, and the long wait for food once they arrive. © Nenna Arnold /MSF

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A child’s arm is measured to gauge malnutrition. A second ward has been opened in Médecins Sans Frontières' hospital to cope with the large numbers of severely malnourished children with medical complications. © Nenna Arnold /MSF

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More than 750 malnourished children are also receiving outpatient treatment at the hospital, while a further 7,000 at-risk families queue up every fortnight to receive extra food. © Natasha Lewer / MSF

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Dadaab is full of children. The number of babies born in the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital has doubled since last year. But with the population of the camps expected to reach 450,000 by the end of this year, and the availability of essential services shrinking, the future for these children looks bleak. © Nenna Arnold /MSF

Click the images above to view larger, with captions.

Refugee Voices from Dadaab

Hawo
Aged 30, from Kamasoma,
arrived five months ago

"...Mahed, who is two. I’ve brought him to the clinic today as he is underweight – he weighs 9.3 kg – and his leg is swollen. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that I don’t want to go back to Somalia.” read more.

Click to view

REPORT

Now Way In: The Biggest Refugee Camp In The World Is Full. Read our report on the growing humanitarian crisis at the refugee camps of Dadaab, Kenya.

Voice From The Field

Dr Gedi Mohamed

“I can’t imagine I’ll ever achieve more in my career than what I’m doing here, in terms both of helping patients and the special relationship I have with them” read more.

Voice From The Field

Nenna Arnold

“These people are surviving with the bare minimum that a human can survive with.” read more.

Logistician from Sydney, working in Dadaab

Don McCallum,36, is an engineer from Sydney, recently returned from Dadaab in Kenya, the site of the world’s largest refugee settlement. Don was working as a logistician in the Dagahaley camp, in his first field placement with Médecins Sans Frontières. In a letter written when he was in Dadaab, Don describes the challenges of working in this context. read more.