A Journey to Dadaab

Leaving Nairobi to Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, and knowing what awaited was both exciting but also made me feel a little nervous. The hardest drought in 60 years hit Somalia sending what seemed to be mostly Somali farmers to Dadaab for support from the UN, MSN, and the Red Cross. When we talked to the refugees and we found that it wasn’t only the drought that sent them to Dadaab, but in some cases it was fear.

Somalia is considered to be a failed nation. Some of the farmers came to Dadaab from fear of their corrupt government which allowed bandits to come and steal livestock from their farm lands. This is a photo taken from a water tower in the refugee camp of the structures being built for the hundreds of families entering the camp each day.

The structure in the foreground is a school. One of the many benefits of coming to the camp is the education programs.


One of the hardest parts of being in the camp was seeing the beautiful children who were so interested in what we were doing and why we were there. I never met a Somalian outside of this trip, and had no idea how beautiful they were, especially their very unique light brown eyes.

Ibraham was a true homie on the trip. He assisted the driver and photographer we were with.

Muhammed was our translator on the trip.

This is home built by a family that had been in the camp less than a week. I was very impressed by their resourcefulness.

This man brought me over to his home to show me his son with an ear infection. You could see the wound inside his ear when he tilted his head. A lot of families show up at the camps with members of their family suffering from severe sickness and exhaustion. Unfortunately, those were the lucky ones. It seemed that each family who trekked from Somalia to Dadaab, lost at least one or more of their family members to the harsh desert landscape. Some families would travel more than 60 days through the desert.


These men took their cattle on a search for water. I had never seen cows so ghastly thin in my life. You could see every one of their bones.

Every area of the camps we entered, we seemed to find at least one boy who had lived in the camp their whole life, and were practically fluent in english because of the camps school systems. I befriended this boy who was very kind and smart. He told me all the problems his community faced in the camps. He told me about the Hyena that would enter his camp at night to attack the donkeys and goats. When I asked how much they gave him for rations, he replied, “a few pieces of ciabatta and some cooking oil.”

For some reason, when they burnt their trash, it had this incredible scent that smelled really good. I never found out why it smelled so good. In the background you can see James Mollison, the photographer for the trip.

Muhammad D, our driver. D for driver. He was a Somali born Kenyan from the Mesai Mara region who was stern but also had a great sense of humor. He drove for hours through the bumpiest roads to and from Dadaab while chewing on khat to keep his energy up.

After Dadaab I decided to refresh my mind and rediscover Kenya through a tourist’s eyes. I went to a Safari alone with a hotel driver.

Just when I thought I had found a peaceful afternoon in Kenya, things got heavy. We found zebra sprawled out on the dirt that was freshly killed.

The attacker came minutes later with a few of her cubs to enjoy an afternoon snack. I saw parts of zebra intestines that I never knew existed. Watching it was like an intense course in a zebra’s digestive system. I stayed and watched for at least an hour.

On a cuter note, I did get a chance to see the feeding of baby elephants. They were sooo cute and playful.

You can see the piece I shot on Dadaab here:

http://www.vice.com/picture-perfect/james-mollison#ooid=dva3BzMjrywGpUW_8S1vJGnSeljbw8Gw

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19 Responses to “A Journey to Dadaab”


  1. 1 banhmi

    dlo these are heartbreakin beautiful. great adventure. great job.

  2. 2 Lafleur

    you go to so many places

  3. 3 Marz&Gino

    Wow…..D-lo these photos are moving…..

  4. 4 Mike

    Emotional roller coaster. Beautiful work pal.

  5. 5 Nadia

    Excellent photos Danilo.

  6. 6 YALE

    The photo of the Lions and the Zebra is the best picture I have ever seen on lovebryan. I have been looking at this site from the very beginning. Amazing.

  7. 7 pp

    I agree with YALE. Amazing post brother. These are crazy good. MagicalGenius

  8. 8 Kresta

    Please, I am wondering how you gained permission to visit the camp as I am hoping to do the same.

    Kind regradsm
    Kresta

  9. 9 Barbara

    Fabulous pictures, Danilo, as well as interesting facts about Somalia and the camps.

  10. 10 mryu

    their resourcefulness and the beauty it creates is amazing. love this…!

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