Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Somali refugees walk the more than 200 mile journey by foot through the desert to the Dadabb refugee camp where a quarter of the country's 7.5 million people are on the move. Help has been blocked by Shabab, a militant group linked to Al Qaeda, which controls some famine-stricken areas and is suspicious of foreign aid agencies.The result is streams of refugees, struggling miles through dry desert wind and fine, sleeting sand in search of sanctuary. The worst drought in decades has blistered large parts of the Horn of Africa, turning it into a landscape of deserted villages and dead rivers. The United Nations says 12 million people need emergency aid.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Somali refugees wait to be registered at Camp IFO on the outskirts of Dadaab, Kenya. They are hoping for an open spot at the world's largest refugee complex. .

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

People mass outside the gates, hundreds deep and eerily still, many squatting in the red dirt holding emaciated children. They wait for water and medicine, but most of all, they wait for an open spot at the world's largest refugee complex.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

The Dadaab refugee complex in northeastern Kenya, a 19-square-mile sprawl, was created in the early 1990's to accommodate refugees fleeing political chaos in Somalia. It now holds 372,000 people, more than four times its original capacity.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Every day, more than 1,000 people arrive at the camp, an estimated half are malnourished children.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Women venture to the camp outskirts to forage for firewood, and return bowed under the big bundles lashed to their backs. They run at the sight of official-looking vehicles. Stripping the trees has angered local Kenyans. They return with horror stories of being raped out in the bush since they travel alone and without their men.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

The onrush of refugees has created a backlog of 17,000 people, and growing, who can languish for months before they are registered, said Alexandra Lopoukhine, a spokeswoman for the aid agency CARE International. Lopoukhine said the vast majority of new arrivals are women and children. Men stay behind with the dying livestock, trying to protect the precarious family wealth.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

A Somali refugee holds her child as she waits to see medical volunteers at a Doctors Without Boarders field hospital.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Ayan Hussain waits on the floor of a Doctors without Boarders field Hospital for her sick child to be seen by a doctor. Ayan recently traveled the long journey from Somalia by foot to Dadaab hoping for aid. She said her child became very ill along the way.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Habido Sharif Hassan, 2 years old and severely malnourished, lies inside a United Nations hospital at the refugee complex.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Hawa Barre Osman looks for a sign of life from Abdi Noor Ibrahim, her severely malnourished 1-year-old, inside the Doctors Without Borders therapeutic feeding center at the Dadaab complex. She walked for a month with her five children from Somalia to reach the camp.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

A mother uncovers the face of her child who recently died in a United Nations makeshift hospital from malnutrition. Throughout the affected region Doctors Without Boarders say it's agency is treating over 10,000 severely malnourished children in its feeding centers and clinics.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

A child who died from malnutrition has his chart examined by doctors before being released to the family for burial.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

An all too common sight in the refugee camps, family members digging shallow graves for their loved ones, often children, who have died from illness and malnutrition.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

In Dadaab, the World Food Program provides foodstuff for all needy refugees. Refugees receive at least 2,100 calories in their daily ration, made up of pulses, wheat flour, maize, corn-soy oil blends, lentils, vegetable oil, and salt. An average person requires a minimum of 2,100 calories. For security reasons, food distribution in the camps is carried out on a bi-monthly basis. Families are provided with food in quantified bulk to last them until the next distribution date. To obtain non-food items, refugees must sell and/or barter part of their food rations.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

The Doctors Without Borders therapeutic feeding center at the Dadaab complex runs desperately low on medicine and operates with minimal medical staff.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Refugees collect water from a humanitarian water source. It's a reminder that behind the science, statistics and debate over global warming, climate change is already having a deep impact on Africa's poverty, security and culture. So far, there's no comprehensive strategy for coping with climate refugees, who are not yet legally recognized and receive no direct funding. As a result, those fleeing drought, flood and other weather changes usually end up in slums or refugee camps that were set up and funded for other purposes.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

A new kind of refugee has arrived-those forced from their Somalian home regions not only by war or persecution, but by the climate. This Kenyan camp, Dadaab, is overflowing with the displaced.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Somali refugees hold their children as they wait to be seen at one of the five health stations run by the Doctors Without Borders aid group.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Haredo Bule Ali checks to see if her granddaughter's heart has stopped. Doctors pronounced the child dead in a hospital but when the child was brought home, the family members thought she might still be alive. In a state of panic family members took turns to see if the child was alive but, she was indeed dead. The 10-month-old died from pneumonia she contracted during the 200-mile walk she and her family made to the Dadaab refugee camp from Somalia.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Despite the sorrow they have lived through, children still manage to have fun by swinging on the dying trees inside the refugee camp.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

School children study the Koran for eight hours a day in small made huts in the refugee camps. Security is also a constant worry for those living at Dadaab, whose red sand is scattered with the bones and carcasses of animals.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Some of the refugees are being sent to a tented camp extension, but the aid group Doctors Without Borders has complained that it lacks a hospital and does not meet "minimum humanitarian standards."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Near the Dadaab refugee camp, the sand is scattered with the bones and carcasses of animals.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Security is a constant worry for those living at Dadaab. Bandits lurk in the surrounding desert, and some aid workers suggest that Shabab has been recruiting fighters in the camps for the militia's battle against Somalia's wobbly transitional government.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

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Back story on a ‘haunting’ image of famine in Africa

By Barbara Davidson, Los Angeles Times

I was on assignment in Africa for six weeks. The famine was not a story that we had originally planned to cover, but when I arrived in Kenya and read about the plight of the Somalian refugees  who walked some 200 miles looking for food and safety, I contacted my editors who agreed we needed to tell their story. After a couple of weeks of  “permit”-gathering, a drill the Kenyan government makes all visiting journalists go through, I was on a plane to Dadaab, near the border of Kenya and Somali, home to the world’s largest refugee camp with 372,000 people, more than four times its original capacity.

The front page photo of Hawa Barre Osman looking for a signs of life from her 1-year-old severely malnourished child, Abdi Noor Ibrahim, was made inside the small Médecins Sans Frontières therapeutic feeding center at their Hospital in the Dagahaley refugee camp.

The day before I made this photo, the hospital was off-limits to all journalists after a photographer had gotten into a physical confrontation with a refugee over her picture being taken without her consent. When I arrived on the crowded, sweltering ward, all I heard was a chorus of sick children crying out in pain. Some were too weak and malnourished to even move and lay lifeless in their desperate mothers’ arms.

It was here, in this place of despair, where I met Hawa and her child. Through my translator, I learned that she was the mother of nine children, four of whom had died in Somalia along with her husband, who died from an unknown illness. She had walked for a month with her five young children to the refugee camp to escape the famine in Somalia. Her son Abdi was in the hospital for a month and was suffering from acute malnutrition. His emaciated body was covered in a painful rash. I asked if it would be OK to photograph her as she tended to her son. I explained to her that people in the United States needed to see the devastating effects of the famine. She said it would be OK.

Médecins Sans Frontières is treating more than 2,400 acutely malnourished children in its outpatient therapeutic feeding program, 130 of whom are at risk of death in its inpatient therapeutic feeding center, and 5,047 moderately malnourished in its supplementary feeding program.

Editor’s note: below are excerpted comments from readers:

“I cannot get past the front page photo… It is ironically, hauntingly, ineffably beautiful.” Michael Tullius

“your photograph of Hawa Barre Osman and her son touched me.  It’s so sad and yet you’ve made it so beautiful – not only in its composition but the way you captured a mother’s love for her son.” Ed Butorac

“So very sad, but absolutely gorgeous photos!  I would have avoided reading the article if the photos had not touched me so deeply.” Janet Cupples

“Women and children continue to be the most vulnerable and unprotected members of our global community. May Davidson’s vision move us to actions of compassionate solidarity.” Catherine Minhoto

See more of Davidson’s work in Sudan. Read Christopher Goffard’s story “Somalis swell Kenya refugee camp, fleeing war and now drought.

How to Help:

Several organizations are fighting hunger and disease in Africa. (A longer list of aid agencies is available online at latimes.com/famine.)

UNICEF: Funds raised for UNICEF will help it prevent child deaths from malnutrition and disease in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Text: Text “FOOD” to UNICEF (864233) to donate $10. Toll free: 1-800-4UNICEF (1-800-486-4233).

WFP: World Food Program is trying to raise $342 million to feed 10 million people in the Horn of Africa.

Text: To make a $10 donation, text “AID” to 27722.

Photo: Aug. 3, 2011, edition of the Los Angeles Times front page.

1 Comment

  1. August 8, 2011, 6:53 am

    as i agree that it is truley devistating that the people of Afica are enduring such horrible situations…it forces me to ask about the people of the US that are enduring the same!!! why are so willing to help other countries before our own? Yes there are programs to feed the hungary…but there is still so much suffering right here, in our very own states..cities and towns!!! Yet there are no news stories to stop it or help them..or raise money for them!!!! this is truley sad … while our own people suffer..we are quick to raise millions of us dollars to send out of our country!!! let us not forget our own in the stuggles of our decreading economy! hard working people loosing all they have..risks of losing employment.stuggling to feed their children..keep a roof over their head..and on and on and on!!!

    By: huntmel@live.com

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