News / Africa

Newly-Arrived Somali Refugees Crowd Dollo Ado Center

Women and Children holding their pink tickets queue for the evening meal at the Dollo Ado transit center in Ethiopia, October 26, 2011.
Women and Children holding their pink tickets queue for the evening meal at the Dollo Ado transit center in Ethiopia, October 26, 2011.

The flow of Somali refugees into Ethiopia appears to be picking up again as Kenyan troops advance into southern Somalia, raising security fears. As dusk falls at the Dollo Ado transit station on the Ethiopia/Somalia border, 5,000 new refugees settle in for another night of uncertainty.

They are the latest wave in the mass exodus from southern Somalia, where a combination of war and drought has left them no choice but to give up everything and flee their homeland. It is a desperate attempt to rescue themselves from starvation, and insecurity.

For now, their lives are on hold.

Fleeing en masse

As darkness descends over the sprawling tent city, long lines form outside the camp kitchen; men and women in separate queues clutching pink tickets that entitle them to a bowl of warm gruel that will tide them over till morning.

In the open-air corrugated metal offices nearby, UN refugee agency workers prepare for the inevitable next wave of refugees that will arrive in the morning.

Two hundred people showed up this day, and the flight from the famine zone has been picking up again since word came that Kenyan soldiers had crossed the border to drive out al-Qaeda inspired Islamist extremists known as al-Shabab, who have held them virtual captives, preventing them from getting outside help even as drought destroyed their crops and killed their livestock.

Contempt for al-Shabab


Those who make it to Dollo Ado say al-Shabab fighters are trying to stop them from leaving, even as famine grips the land. Young men of fighting age are especially susceptible to being detained at al-Shabab check posts. The rebels need fighters.

Al-Shabab means “the youth” in the Somali language, but these young men have rejected the rebels' extremist ideology. They speak of the fighters with contempt, spitting out the word al-Shabab as they tell how they used all sorts of ruses, and traveled circuitous routes along back roads under cover of darkness to avoid the gunmen.

As evening settles in, the sound of children is interspersed with the crackle of short wave radios. This night, the foreign voices are telling of fighting in southern Somalia as the Kenyan soldiers advance, northward toward the strategic port of Kismayo, and of the arrests of suspected al-Shabab militants in Nairobi, where a cache of explosives was found.

A walk through the camp attracts hordes of children, giving a visitor a Pied Piper-ish feeling. These kids have nothing else to do. I have brought a VOA soccer ball, and a bunch of young men who had been playing with a ragged rubber ball eagerly gather round and ask to have their picture taken.

Seeking survival, life

This is one of the few happy moments at the transit center. In a tent nearby, there are few smiles as one family observes the birth of a new son. His nine-month pregnant mother arrived here riding on a donkey, only days before delivering a child who begins life as a refugee.

These 5,000 transit center residents will be relocated within a few weeks, as soon as a new camp is built. The four existing camps are filled to capacity with 125,000 people who have arrived at Dollo Ado since the mass exodus from Somalia began earlier this year.

And word in the camps is that more people are on the way. Those already here say relatives who had stayed behind are now giving up on remaining there, and deciding to attempt the hazardous journey. Life is becoming unbearable as al-Shabab fighters try to burrow in with the local population to hide in the face of the Kenyan army's advance.

By comparison, existing in a tent in a barren desert refugee camp in a foreign land seems pretty good.

You May Like

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid