Wednesday, February 11
Of the three refugee camps in Dadaab, Dagahaley is the only one registering new arrivals. Dagahaley does not have any more space than the other camps – like Ifo and Hagadera, it is overstretched with a population of more than 85,000 on land that should be holding only 30,000. Regardless, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) continues to provide support and services to the refugees that flow in from neighboring Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan. This is their mandate.
As we drove up to Dagahaley I could see hundreds of people – men, women and children – waiting outside the gate of the registration center. I quickly realized this would be an emotional day. For these refugees, reaching the gate marked the end of a long journey for a more peaceful life.
Registration is a crucial step for refugees to receive food rations provided by the World Food Programme and non-food items like Jerricans to hold water, mats to sleep on, cooking pots and, now, bed nets. As in the other two camps, there are no additional plots of land to provide for new arrivals, so they are asked to stay with others.
While it was only 8am, the sun was already beating down. Just as we arrived the gates were opened and hundreds of refugees flowed into a line to begin the registration process. Families brought their small children to a table on one side of the “community waiting shed” where health workers provided key health interventions, including Vitamin A and measles and polio vaccinations. It was here that pregnant women also received bed nets.
I met Khatro, a 28-year-old pregnant mother of four, as she was receiving her net. For nearly a month she had been staying with relatives in Hagadera and just yesterday traveled 27 kilometers by foot with her four children to finally get registered. Originally from Ogadon, Ethiopia, it took Khatro 15 days to travel to Dadaab, sometimes taking a car when she could.
Khatro explained that since leaving her home she is “at least sleeping,” and feeling more at peace than she did at her home. When she received her bed net, Khatro was grateful, explaining that she was happy to have the net and would use it to help her family sleep even more securely.
Watching hundreds of people who have fled their homes be registered into a refugee camp, and knowing that hundreds more will come tomorrow and the next day, has been without a doubt the most emotional experience I have had while in Dadaab. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and it partners are doing life-saving work, and thanks to you, are continuing to save lives by being able to provide bed nets to refugees.
Read about our how our partner, URJ, participated in the trip to Kenya.
Refugees living in Kenya receive bed nets! Pictures on Flickr.