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The Illusive Dhobley of Somalia and the Old Man who walked with his Camels

Dhobley is one of the communities that World Concern is involved in the distribution of food vouchers for about 1800 families twice a week and the distribution of non-food items (mosquito nets, sheeting, pots, etc) for about 800 families in addition to sanitation, water projects , etc. Medical Teams International is also involved in providing medical care there. It is in Somalia and about 25 Km from the Kenyan border.


Dhobley has been on our schedule at least three times but we have been unable to go there for a variety of reasons. Once it was the rainy weather that made the roads too muddy to use and two days ago the reason given to us was that the personnel accompanying us were not familiar with Somalia or Dhobley. However the latest we heard was that the Kenyan military is going for a sweep of the Kenyan/Somalian border for the next two to three days. Yesterday we heard that there have been attacks on the military in Garissa and somewhere else that I have not heard of resulting in several casualties that have to be flown to Nairobi. The latest is that there is now fighting in Dhobley itself. AFREC (Africa Emergency Committee), a partner of WC in Somalia deems it unsafe to travel in Somalia. They were intending to travel from Dhobley to Liboi to meet the WC people to receive the food vouchers for distribution but canceled the trip. It means that we will not be going to Dhobley any time soon. Perhaps in our short stay here, Dhobley will not be secure enough for us to visit at all.


This morning we took the helicopter again, the pilots said that perhaps we could go to some place nice being that we are such frequent flyers. We hinted that we would not mind them doing some sharp turns or banking. Just as soon as we took off the pilots did just that, It was quite fun. Before we reached Damajale, they flew the chopper really low and asked whether we enjoyed our safari, I commented that we did not see any animals. They said it was only for the premier class not for business. But we did see the camels gazing up at us while eating from the top of the acacia trees. We landed sharply again and close to our clinic in Damajale.



The health care worker again had not opened the clinic, he only ran quickly to unlock the doors as soon as he heard the chopper. As we got ready, I looked at his record book and saw that he did not open the clinic from November 11 to 23 and then the clinic was not opened again except for the days we came to Damajale.


I was quite busy today, personally saw about 54 patients, in Hamey yesterday I saw 48 patients. I again tested a few children and a woman for malaria but none of them had it. Many elderly men and women had poor vision with cataracts which I could not do anything. Almost all the women, young and old complained of chest, low back pain (which they said its kidney pain) and knee pain, mostly from walking a long way and carrying water. I jokingly asked if their husbands helped them with the water, their reply was they don't carry heavy things.



Close to the end of my clinic, an 84 year-old man, blind in one eye, walked in slowly with a walking stick fashioned from a tree branch, complained of joint pain when he moved around. By right he should. He told me he loved to walk with his camels and wished to continue to do so. I gave him some ibuprofen and told him to take it with food 30 minutes before his activity. He was happy with that.



The pilots were an hour late because the fuel station in Garissa made them wait for an hour. In any case they made some nice maneuvers. As we approached Dadaab, I asked them whether the tents in the distance indicated the Dadaab Refugee Camps. They asked if we would like to fly over the camps. And so we had a look from the air the enormous Dadaab camp, some of the camp grounds seemed to be flooded. Each camp holds about 80,000 refugees and the oldest of them is about twenty years old and the tents have been replaced with more permanent structures. Officially there are three camps in Dadaab but unofficially there are about six camps which translate to over half a million refugees in North Kenya. This is an amazing and unfathomable number of people displaced from their homes.



It took us on the jeep about three and half hours to get to Damajale and then perhaps a couple of more hours to reach the border of Somalia. The refugees who fled the drought or conflict in Somalia had to travel by foot with children and some worldly belongings in the intense heat without security of food and water to reach the Dadaab Refugee Camp, probably many weeks of traveling with children and animals dying on the way. We who live in parts of the world free of conflict have a lot to be thankful for.


We wished one another a good weekend as the pilots will have a day off on Sunday.

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