Hindi was living with her husband and children in Mogadishu, Somalia before the violence that surrounded their home tore them apart. Since 1991, conflict has ravaged Somalia, causing the death and displacement of millions, including families like Hindi’s.
Forced to flee from the fighting to seek treatment for her only surviving child, Hindi arrived at the Dagahaley camp, one of three refugee camps in Dadaab in neighbouring Kenya. Although Hindi and her daughter have found some peace amongst the turmoil, the fight for their lives continues.
Throughout the camps, alarming shortages of food, water and adequate shelter continue, with around 5,000 new refugees arriving monthly. Today, the overcrowded camps are home to more than 270,000 refugees who have risked everything to be there. Although the camp offers relative security, people are living in appalling conditions. As a result, many refugees, such as Hindi, have contemplated returning to Somalia, despite the constant violence that rages in the country.
Hindi recalls the violence that destroyed her family and brought her to the refugee camp in Kenya.
“One night whilst we were all sleeping, an artillery shell hit our house. My husband and two of my children were sleeping in the same room. Next to it was my daughter. I was in another part of the house with a child who was sick. A mortar fell. The shell hit the room where my husband and two children were sleeping. They all died. Where the shell fell, a fire started, and a burning mattress fell on my daughter protecting her from other debris. She still suffers from the burns.
I brought my daughter to Keytsaney Hospital in Mogadishu, where she was given medicine, but fighting erupted near the hospital and the hospital was shelled, so we had to flee again. Since we came to this camp in Dadaab, we are in a secure area. We are safe here. But economically, we can not tolerate this situation. The food ration we receive is far too small.
I left Somalia to seek treatment for my daughter, but she did not get any. Now the food is not enough. Hunger is worse that the fighting. Sometimes I think it would be better to go back to Somalia.
I have no hope for the future.”
In January 2009, 242,000 Somali refugees were recorded in Kenya. It is estimated a further 48,000 refugees will flee to Kenya by December 2009. The persisting conflict has also led to the displacement of approximately 1.3 million people within Somalia itself.
Médecins Sans Frontières has been responding to refugee influxes in the Dadaab refugee camps intermittently since 1992. With the current situation fast becoming a new crisis, teams started providing primary healthcare in the Dagahaley Camp in February 2009. Médecins Sans Frontières has recently called upon the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, international donors, and the Kenyan government to urgently address the lack of assistance and protection provided to arriving refugees, as well as the dire living conditions in the camps.