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HORN OF AFRICA/ AVSI: Life in Dadaab, doctors kidnapped as schools are being built

Leo Capobianco talks about the situation in the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya after the kidnapping of the Spanish doctors from Doctors without Borders and what AVSI is working on.

(photo ANSA) (photo ANSA)

The news of the kidnapping of two Spanish doctors from Doctors without Borders was not slow in coming. Rumors circulate quickly in the Dadaab camp, a vast expanse of white tents that could seem lifeless.

The border is officially closed. For security reasons, the police have been deployed to prevent the entry of the Al Shabab terrorists. The commander has assured Kenyans that the situation is under control and that criminals are stopped before they enter the country. UNHCR releases security dispatches that make the situation seem almost normal, though the danger of infiltration is high, as confirmed, unfortunately, by the kidnappings.

The Al Shabab militants do not come with their membership to the group written on their foreheads. They are people who may be confused with ordinary people, with the refugees. Anyone could confuse them with the refugees arriving from Somalia, on foot, trying to cross the border and walking even eighty kilometers to arrive, exhausted, on foot with their families. Everyone is trying to get here to Dadaab to register with the UNHCR welcome center.

Two weeks ago, one of the drivers of Care International was kidnapped. Our driver tells us about it. He was two steps from where “the incident” happened. They took the car and the driver with it. CARE suspended operations for a few days and began again, but in a reduced form. They do not have any news of their driver yet. They call it "common delinquency".

Meanwhile, in Dobley, about 20 kilometers from the Kenya-Somalia border, it was reported that there was a battle between some 400 Al Shabab militants and government forces. It seems that many journalists tried to reach the site, which is within an hour's drive from Dadaab. They say that a French woman was kidnapped in the small tourist island of Lamu, and it is thought that she was kidnapped in order to obtain a ransom from the government in Paris.

Returning to the camps, since 2009, when AVSI began working in these camps here in Kenya, we really could not imagine that we would become witnesses of this immense tragedy that the whole world is watching. Statistics say that we have reached a total of 470,000 people displaced. I think that that is the population of Bologna. They say Dadaab has become the third or fourth most populous "city" in Kenya.