Desperation reigns amid the 380,000 refugees in Dadaab, a sprawling “tent city” in northeastern Kenya.
I am tying my shoelaces when the early morning call to prayer begins to sound over the scratchy loudspeakers at the neighbourhood mosque.
It’s an early start from Garissa; we need to get to Dadaab and get cracking with our coverage.
And so, just as light begins to streak through the night sky, I gingerly slide myself into the rented Land Cruiser. I am asked if my room was fitted with a mosquito net to prevent contracting malaria from the blood sucker buzzing about.
“No … and I was eaten alive last night … so wait, does that now mean I have malaria?” my voice begins to crackle in mild trepidation.
“Nah – you are on the medication, so you should be fine … or … well, you will know either way in two weeks,” is the collective reply.
Two weeks to malaria, then.
I look out the window and watch the sun rise slowly over the prairie.
The road from Garissa to Dadaab resembles a wide, dry river bed. The road has been so beat up, it feels as though you’re driving in a shallow bowl flanked by river banks and layered in different textures of sand – from the rock-hard to the soft desert grains – giving the easily distracted more than one reason to drift.
This is not a safari
Outside my window, two tall giraffes strike up dust as they glide with elegant nonchalance through the rough, drought-resistant vegetation beside us. Moments later, we slow down and allow a herd of camels ambling through the sandy motorway to pass, but as we motor our way further across the bumpy road, a tiny deer hops across the road, forcing our Toyota to grind to a momentary halt. I remind myself that we are not in a game park and this is not a safari. Thousands of people have trekked across the wild for days hiding from militia and police by day and hyenas by night, to escape the insecurity of violence and famine in nearby Somalia.