The ride home in our vehicle was the hardest for me. As I recollected the entire journey I made from the time Riccardo came to Amsterdam, then we took the train to Liege, the early mornings to catch the B767 to Nairobi and the ride all the way to Dadab, then the challenges of being thrown all over the place and arriving in Dadab but yet not knowing if we could even come close to the refugee camp was beginning to catch up on me and my feelings.
How can I express all that I have seen in words and give justice to all that I have seen and share it with the world? Its hard and I hope this final blog will be fair to the people I met who’ve touched me deeply.
As we took our chance to drive through the unsafe zone from Dadab to Garissa with only 1 convoy escort, I looked out the window and can’t help but feel the heaviness in my heart and as tears began to roll down my cheeks, the memories of the days began to hit me in my heart.
400,000 was the latest count of the number of refugees living in the 3 camps. The number is expected to grow to 450,000 in the next months or so and many more if the conflict does not end. Thousands of new comers arrived Dadab each day.
One of the visits that tested and pulled all my emotional strings was the visit to the clinic where all new comers with children that are ill were being treated. As we entered the clinic and were introduced to the doctor who started explaining the conditions of the children in the clinic, we can see for ourselves how malnourished these children were. You can see the IV unit already in place on their wrist so that the doctors can easily administer the medication through injections into the IV unit rather than piercing the children with the injection needles. No parents would ever want to see this on their children.
As I look into the faces of these children, I know that I have to start taking photos of them. I asked for permission from the doctor if it was alright to take photos of them, the doctor said it was alright and that they are used to seeing guests and photos being taken. How can one get used to this? I really wonder. As I walked through the beds and started taking photos, I felt a deep sense of guilt, a guilt stemming out from feeling that we’re taking these photos so that the TNT community would feel empathy for these children. But why do we need to see such photos to feel empathy? I guess only you can answer this question. But I know I have to do my job and pulling myself together, I took some really heart tugging photos.
One distinct and obvious observation I made was how thin the mothers are. I began to think if whether we had ever given considerations to how tough life was for the mothers of these children. The fled their home and country with their child or children in hope that they would get a better life, some food to feed their children and sheltered from the violence and turmoil. They travelled on foot for more than 120kms under the hot sun. I wonder how many did not survive the journey and the ones that did survive looked tired, forlorn and despondent. I also noticed the emptiness in their eyes and wonder what horror they have seen or experienced to end up with this emptiness.
The children and their parent will stay in the clinic till the children recover. The children will be treated for the illness they have and fed with 2 types of fortified milk until their health improved. When they do, they will be given the Plumpy Sup to further help them improve their immunity system and have the chance to survive.
WFP has been doing an amazing job of ensuring that everyone that turned up at the camp were given food and enough for them to survive before the next food distribution. Through CARE, they distribute 7 kinds of food items every 16 days to families of 1 to 16. The distribution warehouses were messy but the workers got the job done and for 9 days, the different families receive their food support. Everyone was given food cards and they are punctured every time they collect their food. Primitive system but it works. These cards were tied around the neck of the refugees to that they don’t lose it along the process of collecting their food.
We had to cut our visit short as the convoy and escorts were leaving at noon, thus we were hurried into the vehicles and rushed back to the compound. We were there for half a day but that half a day opened my eyes and heart in the way I could never imagined when I first left the Netherlands.
As I see the carcases of cows are scattered all along the road at every 10km point, I pray that we have done enough to help the refugees in Dadab and other parts of the world. If we have not, I hope that we will continue to do more as what we do is so important as it will save their lives.
To the people who have made this trip happened for us, Victor Mwanga from TNT Kenya, Colonel Patrick, our armed security officer, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and of course Rose who constantly checks on me if I am fine and safe. My sincere thanks as this trip were changed my life as I am sure for those who went with us as well