“Dadaab” is the largest refugee camp in the world. It was established in Eastern Kenya in the early 1990’s to provide refuge for thousands of Somalis fleeing the violent conflict in their own country. Under the direction of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) run three separate “camps” located around the Kenyan city of Dadaab, each built for and intended to house approximately 30,000 refugees. The latest figures put the total population at ~350,000! It’s literally bursting at the seams as 10,000 new arrivals are welcomed each month in the camps mostly because of the draught in the region. In the past, newly arrived families received food ration cards, a small plot of land and some building supplies. There is no more land to build on and people are left to construct huts of sticks and mud. The climate is arid with oppressively hot temperatures reaching 110-115⁰F. There is sparse foliage growing in the desert-like sands. In the midst of this, there are glimmers of hope for the people since schools, limited healthcare, and safety are provided within the camps. While the NGO workers exhaust themselves to care for these often forgotten people, funds are limited; this is especially true when it comes to healthcare. Each camp has a small hospital and clinic where 2-3 physicians, usually with only one year of post-medical school training, are tasked with providing healthcare to over 100,000 people. Specialty care, including much surgical care, has to be referred outside the camps. Emergent cases are freely and quickly referred, but each camp has funds available for only 6-8 referrals per month. BethanyKids has committed to caring for the surgical needs of the thousands of kids in the camps. In conjunction with the NGOs in the camps, BethanyKids screens patients in each camp every two months. During our visits to Dadaab, we are also able to do some smaller procedures at the hospitals in the camps, but larger procedures require transport to Kijabe Hospital where BethanyKids provides all the necessary care. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet basic needs and to be the healing hands of Our Lord.
Note: Recently TheAtlantic.com featured Dadaab and its 20 year existence. The photos will give you some idea of the conditions of the camp.