Residents of the world’s largest refugee camp are mainly women and children, raising questions about the fate of men.
Azad Essa Al Jazeera
The wind hollers, whipping up dust that scratches at our faces. As I fumble with my notebook, a thorny branch of the drought-resistant Mathenge tree hits me in the face and Yaroy Sirat Muhammed, with an infant in her arm, immediately reaches out to hold the wayward stem so that it doesn’t happen again.
I thank her sheepishly and urge her not to bother, but she does not let it go.
Yaroy is a Somali refugee, temporarily pulled out of a queue of hundreds of others who are waiting to complete the registration process at the IFO camp in the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya, to talk to me.
We sit down while she tells me her story.
Yaroy travelled to Dadaab without her husband. She says that the situation on their farm in the Bay district of southern Somalia had deteriorated to such an extent that her husband told her that, should their neighbours suddenly pack up and leave for Dadaab, she was to take the children and accompany them – even if that meant leaving him behind.
And that is exactly what happened, except two of Yaroy’s children were also left behind when the local community began their exodus.
“He went to the market that morning with two of our children and the neighbours were preparing to leave, so I took the emergency money and left with the other four children,” she explains.
Yaroy says that although there hadn’t been any rain for four or five years, al-Shabaab’s ban on aid agencies assisting farmers, coupled with the fact that the family’s goats and cows were dying off, convinced her it was time to leave.
“We once had 100 goats … but [when we left] only ten were alive and the few cows we had died,” she says, adding: “I had no hope that rain would come any time soon.” read more