KENYA: A Day in Dadaab

11.02.2010 | Kenya, Dadaab refugee camp

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is still very concerned about the situation in one of the world’s most congested camp complex in Dadaab, in north-eastern Kenya. MSF has been providing medical care for a year in Dagahaley camp and while there have been some improvements during that time: the overcrowding is still very worrying. Refugees are only receiving the bare minimum to survive.

“In one year, we have seen improvements. Refugees are now receiving the full ration of food and receive some basic non-food-items, but there’s a clear need for more water and more space,” explains Duncan Bell, field coordinator in Dagahaley camp. “Although there has been an increase in the number of litres of water per person per day, people are still only getting 15 litres of water per day!”

“Congestion is a huge problem,” adds Duncan. “The relevant agencies and the government are trying to find a solution; but urgent action needs to be taken to bring forward the opening of a fourth camp or the extension of an existing camp as soon as possible”.

Set-up in the 1990’s to receive 90,000 people, the three camps are now inhabited by almost three times that number. Health facilities are over-stretched and the massive concentration of refugees into such a small area is a public health time bomb.

Every month, thousands more Somalis are crossing the officially closed border between Kenya and Somalia, to seek refuge, putting the capacity of the existing three camps under severe pressure. Today, over 260,000 people are living in the Dadaab camp complex.

“As long as this situation prevails in Somalia, MSF cannot foresee that the influx of Somalis seeking refuge will reduce. We have been here for a year now, and we think the conditions in the camps are still unacceptable,” continues Duncan Bell.

MSF is providing primary and secondary health care to over 100,000 inhabitants of the Dagahaley camp. In 2009, MSF teams treated more than 67,000 people, including 2,245 malnourished children. MSF also provides an integrated mental health project. The number of people suffering from mental disorders is particularly high amongst the camp population.

Stories from Dadaab


Mohamed, a former policeman and musician, fled the fighting in Mogadishu to Galcoya in north-east Somalia. There he found peace and work as a security supervisor for MSF and Medecins du Monde. When the fighting reached Galcoya, he was forced to flee again, and is now in Dadaab, on the Kenyan border. He yearns for the Mogadishu of the past but, despite the harsh living conditions and inadequate food and water supplies, he has found some peace.


Omar, a Somali refugee who has fled to Kenya, explains how his wife and five children were killed by a shell whistling through the air. He had to leave his one remaining child behind in another refugee camp in Somali. While he feels safer in Dadaab, conditions are harsh and he sees no prospect of returning to his home in Somalia.


Hyndia and her daughter describe how a mortar shell hit their house, killing Hyndia’s husband and two of the children. The daughter was badly burned in the fire and has struggled to receive medical treatment. They tell of their despair and lack of hope for the future.


Hawa, a young Somali woman who has fled the civil war, talks about the violence she has escaped and the harsh realities of life as a refugee

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