This morning we were picked up at 5:45 am at the ACK Guesthouse to Wilson Airport. It rained last night and the sky still carried ominous rain clouds. Our luggage and we were weighed. The Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) has been in service carrying people for humanitarian missions in Africa since 1948 with Mathew 25:40 as their guiding principle: Assuredly, I say to you, in as much as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.
Our plane was a 12-passenger plane and there were nine passengers. The flight itself took an hour and half. We left Nairobi with its red-roofed English cottages intermingling with huge areas of shanty towns and slums to the ubiquitous East Africa red-earthed forests. As we approached Dadaab, We saw scattered areas of refugee camps and the UN compound. I expected to see arid land but instead the place is green with Acacia trees putting on new leaves and green grass is thriving. Here and there are pools of water and a major road is flooded. For the past four weeks or so the rain came and the arid land has been transformed to this green miracle. I would have loved to see the transformation and the contrast of the land before and after the life-saving rain.
We were picked up by David and drove through the town of Dadaab, a town with thriving commerce of its own. The guesthouse has several rooms and the women are sharing quarter with two bunk beds and a double bed. Krista gave Yvonne and me a little spiel of the dos and don’ts of dressing in Somalia. We have to wear skirts down to our ankles of which I only brought one and long or three-quarter length sleeves and a head scarf when we work in Somalia in order to respect their customs and not offend them. We are not to look at the eyes of the men directly and not to shake hands unless they offer to. The weather here is hot and humid and already in my short-sleeved shirt and below knee skirt and without a head scarf, I was sweating profusely. The sun seared my skin. I just hope I don’t faint under all these layers of garments.
Sakuda gave us a briefing on the current security situation which he admitted that it changes every day. They were planning to go to Liboi this morning but because of an incident there they had to abort their plan.
Dadaab town is surrounded by three refugee camps if I understand him correctly: Ifo, Dugahaley and Hagadera Kamloos all run by UNHCR and security is provided by the Kenyan police. Altogether there are over 400,000 displaced people. Active commerce is carried on here and it is said that one can get new cars and guns easily here. Dadaab is 105 Km from the border of Somalia. In the last two weeks there had been explosions of land mines, whereas previously there was banditry along the road from Dadaab to the border of Somalia now there is the additional danger of land mines and IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) on the road. In the back of our minds we have to remember that there is the possibility of kidnapping for ransom especially for light-skin folks, cross-fire from insurgents and vehicular accidents.
World Concern is serving five communities: Amuna, Damajale, Diif, Liboi, Hamey and Dhobley. Our focus will be on Dhobley, a community in Somalia 25 Km from the border. We will travel in two vehicles accompanied by the Kenyan police who will provide security. At the Somalia border we will change vehicle and will then be accompanied by the Kenyan police who will provide security. At the Somalia border we will change vehicle and will then be escorted by the Somalia police. The trip will take about two and a half hours each way. UN has deemed this north-eastern part of Kenya at level IV security risk which we are to understand as being high.
We are being besieged by hundreds of annoying flies which have come with the rain, they disappear promptly when dusk falls but I am sure will reappear with the crack of dawn. With the rain we shall soon expect the arrival of the mosquitoes. With the fact that we cannot venture out without a male escort and the question of landmines, it will be hard to run. I am hoping to be able to go to the bigger UN compound at the end of the day to put in some running.