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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid