I arrived in Nairobi, Kenya yesterday from Morocco having spent two weeks there traveling and visiting Medinas in Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes, Fes, Essouria and Marrakech, spending a night out in the Sahara Desert, hiking the Todra Gorge and part of the High Atlas Mountains. I was the second to last person on the camel caravan in the picture but did not arrive in Nairobi via camel.
Nairobi is as congested as I remembered when I volunteered in the fall of 2008 in Maseno Hospital. It was rather hot then in Nairobi but the weather now is actually a little cooler, I needed a sweater over my shirt.
The worst drought in 60 years is affecting the horn of Africa, the rain has failed to come for the last two rainy seasons resulting in crop failure and lack of food for humans and animals. On July 20 UN declared an official famine emergency in two regions of Somalia. It is estimated that as many as 13 million people are hungry and as many as 35 to 40 percent of the children in the most hard-hit areas are suffering from acute malnutrition.
I am a member of a team of three sent from Medical Teams International which is partnering with World Concern, a non-profit humanitarian organization that has a long established presence in the Kenya/Somalia border. Jim is our team leader and is a PA working in the ER and has extensive experience in international work, Yvonne is a midwife and I am an Infectious Disease specialist.
Today we spent most of the day going over inventory of medicines and equipment to see if we had an additional need of other supplies. Most of the things we need seemed to be there except for some items. Tomorrow we will head towards Dadaab on a small plane and we are each limit to 15 kg.
In our briefing we were told that we will be staying in Dadaab but will not be working at the Dadaab Refugee camp, one of the world’s largest refugee camps because it is being served by many larger and well-established NGOs. Instead we will concentrate our effort to provide medical aid in several places along the Kenyan/Somalia border where many of the larger aid agencies have not been able to gain access because of the border strict security measures.
The recent abduction of tourist in Lamu and kidnapping of aid workers at the border had resulted in the Kenyan government sending troops across the Somalia border in the hope of establishing security at least 50 to 100km from the Kenyan border. This incursion has caused the Al Sabaab to warn the Kenyan government of retaliations. In Nairobi, I see a lot of military presence bearing AK 47 and security was tight with checking of vehicles, etc.
Our main project area is in Dhobley, a small border town located just over the Somalia border. The security situation in Dadaab fluctuates daily and the Transitional Government Forces is working with MTI to ensure our safety. Al Sabaab the active terrorist group is located 30 km outside of Dhobley with TGF conducting military offensives to drive them further from the area. We will be flying to Dadaab slightly over an hour from Nairobi.