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Mohamed Osman Issack, 58
Mohamed is a new arrival in Dagahaley, having fled Somalia about a month earlier.
Dadaab refugee camp: 30 years in search of dignity
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This is Mohamed’s 31st day in Dagahaley camp, having fled Somalia due to insecurity. He says his seven-year-old son was accused of attempting to rape a 15-year-old girl, and despite going through maslaha – an arbitration process – and paying his dues, constant threats to his life and family persisted.
“At some point some armed people came and threatened to kill my whole family, we faced this a lot,” he says. “We were also an ethnic minority there and could not get much support from others as is often the case in our culture. I had to leave, and coming to the camp was the only certain solution for me.”
“When we got to the camp, our neighbours here helped us set up our makeshift domes. We approached UNHCR the following day but they (UNHCR) told us that they do not register new arrivals anymore, so we just came back here [to our house]. Since we’re not registered, we don’t have access to food, so we survive on well-wishers’ donations or go begging in the camp’s market.”
I came here on my own: hounded my family in a lorry that brought us all the way here. I settled myself here, without support from any organisation. We only carried a few clothes, utensils and that small mat my mother sleeping on.
I started begging for food but after a few days, people got tired of my begging and I had to go start looking for a way to provide for my family.
I would then go to the market up there to do any casual work that would give me some income. I am good at carpentry, so I help those who have things to fix, but sometimes when there’s no woodwork to be done, I dig toilets, fetch firewood by donkey cart which has a ready market, or help load and off load items in the market – whatever I can do to get some income to sustain my family.”
Being the period of Ramadhan, people’s kindness has been overwhelming. When I went to the market yesterday, I came back and found a well-wisher had brought us some 2 kilos of rice, others even brought us some bedding and mattresses.
Calls to close the camp
I was just a day old in the camp here when I heard from my neighbours about the calls to close the camp. I was shocked! The only safe place I could find refuge in was getting closed. I was confused. Where else was I to go? I have no other hope but to stay here, I can’t go back to Somalia unless they beat me up and load me into the vehicle. I will just wait for that day, but there’s no hope for me in Somalia. I will live here and move wherever life takes me.
I just need access to food and some decent shelter so that we can live like other refugees. I heard about an hospital here in Dagahaley where we can get free services, but we’ve been blessed to not have needed medical services yet. It’s only my wife who’s been suffering from some back pains and I’m yet to take her to the hospital.
Whatever happens, I’ll never go back to Somalia, I want to stay here until peace is restored in that country. Even if I have nothing here, it’s quite peaceful. Since I came, I haven’t heard any gunshots unlike Somalia where gunshot sounds rented the air every now and then, and you hear news of someone having been killed just near your home. You live in fear. Here I can even sleep outside peacefully. Despite the lack of food, we feel adequately safe.”