The bus bounded over pot-holed roads, heading north-east from Nairobi into the arid scrubland towards the Somali border. We were seven, crammed into the back seat of this behemoth, thrown upwards out of our seats on some of the nastier bumps, my head once hitting the roof.
Past Garissa, all that lay ahead of us was the Somali border—an unruly frontier—and Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp.
The three camps that comprise the Dadaab refugee complex, and which are already over-capacity, have swelled in recent months, their numbers growing due to the drought (and subsequent famine) ravaging Somalia.
I began working on the drought back in May, covering the drought-displaced in Mogadishu. Conditions were terrible back then, and people were arriving into the war-torn capital in a deplorable state. I had never seen malnutrition this bad.
This did not prepare me, however, for what I would encounter in Dadaab. The size of the place is overwhelming; the sheer number of people living here, as refugees from a war-torn country, many for over a decade. The camps are overwhelmed by the number of people arriving, unable to process that many (over 1000) people each day. And in the hospitals, the severity of the malnutrition was unlike anything I had encountered, neither in eastern Sudan, South Sudan nor Mogadishu.
When I was in Mogadishu, it seemed like no-one was covering the drought, it took over a month for the pictures to appear on the Guardian website. Now, half of the Juba independence press corps. The drought is all over the international news, and rightly so. Through a proper response, political will and, admittedly, with cooperation from al-Shebab, much of this could have been prevented.
» For more coverage of the drought in the Horn of Africa, see my portfolio