Yesterday I walked through an area of Dadaab refugee camp called Dagahaley. This is where new arrivals to Dadaab, who have escaped the food crisis across the border in Somalia, are taking shelter while they wait to be fully registered.
It’s an area where poverty and hunger stare you in the face. An area where the fine red dust is whipped up by the wind, stings your eyes and gets everywhere. An area that’s bleak and harsh.
Not somewhere you’d want to call home.
Walking through Dagahaley I came across not just one but two small children’s graves being dug. The men out in the burning sun, swinging their pickaxes high above their heads to dig down into the red earth, to give their children as dignified a resting place as possible.
Stretching away from me were small mounds of earth signifying yet more child graves.
Habiba was just six months old when she died. She was born malnourished and died malnourished. Her family had recently arrived in Dadaab having escaped from the drought and food crisis, hoping for assistance. Hoping their baby would survive.
Now they’re burying her. This is what is happening in East Africa because of the food crisis.
One man I met at Habiba’s grave told me all he wanted was a job so he could provide for his family. People will do anything to keep their children alive. But they’re running out of options. They’ve already lost everything they have. Now they are losing their children.
Time for action
I’m lucky, I can leave Dadaab. The refugees, here to escape from the drought, aren’t so lucky.
To stop more children like Habiba dying we need rich countries to step up to the mark and to fill the US$1 billion funding gap to be able to respond to the scale of this crisis.
And we need them to do this now. Waiting any longer means more children will continue to die.