Dial “D” for Dadaab.
“birds have the life,” i thought, as an egret, pushed off its path by an invisible wall of wind, disappeared into the dusk. i had climbed to the top of our compound’s water tower to look as far as i could into the scrub desert, not so different here, on the kenya side of the somali border than it was in sudan. the falling sun touched the clouds with its orangeandredyellowpink but below them, the desert was lost to blackness. rain? please, let it be rain. then the spirals of dust started their spin, and the grit hit my mouth. sand. i climbed down.
it’s still blowing in, through my mesh window, out my open door.
back in the heat and the dust. i arrived last week, by road from nairobi. i am working in dadaab, home to 300 000 somalis. more come every day, fleeing not only the chaos of their country, but a worsening drought that saw last november’s rainy season shortened to one day. tomorrow, i will sit at a wooden desk, looking at the rows of mothers gently dripping milk into the tube that runs through their child’s nose into his stomach, as another is lead into the ward, her child barely a bump beneath her black burka. she will unwrap him, set him in the bucket of our gently swinging hanging scale. he will cling to the sides, mewling weakly for support, as his mother and i glance at the scale’s jittering hand. 5.2 kg at 14 months old, more a robust birthweight than a fighting one. we’ll lead her to a bed at the end of a long row, one more mother with mouths to feed at home, but this one too weak to last much longer.
this is a challenging mission. not simply the medicine, nor the context, the world’s largest refugee came and its most forgotten, but also because there is no little life outside of the hospital and compound. while it will take resolve to last through to missions end, the lack of freedom and its congruency with the population we are here to serve is not lost on us. the people here are not allowed to move, nor vote, nor work, nor farm. they live between a freedom they can’t abide, in sight of one they are not afforded.
i wake up at 2 am every night, as the power cuts out and my fan grinds down. sweat starts to bead, and i push through the mosquito net. dust falls onto the sheets. i grope for my headlamp, click it and step outside. the compound, usually full of the activity and noise of the 70people who share it, is quiet and dark. the wind, violent earlier, has calmed. stones crunch as i walk towards a chair in the centre of the yard. i sit down, click off my light, stretch my neck back. above, stars are scattered in the blackness, thousands of distant jewels. somewhere, in dadaab, someone is looking at the same ones, staring at the open space above, hoping that if you can free your mind, even for a moment, with it, goes your soul.
more soon. love.
please note. i will continue to blog, from the field, but will do it at the MSF address of my previous one from sudan. the URL is: http://msf.ca/blogs/jamesm/category/dial-d-for-dadaab/