Monday, February 15, 2016


"What it’s like to call the world’s largest refugee camp home" PBS NewsHour 2/11/2016


SUMMARY:  Established by the U.N. in 1991 to house Somalis fleeing their civil war, the Dadaab Refugee Camp complex in eastern Kenya has grown into the largest in the world.  Some call it a humanitarian disaster, but to its half-million residents, it is both their last resort and their home.  Judy Woodruff talks to Ben Rawlence, author of “City of Thorns,” an inside look at stories of survival in Dadaab.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Ben Rawlence, welcome.

BEN RAWLENCE, Author, “City of Thorns”:  Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, we’re hearing a lot about refugees these days, but you are writing about a group of refugees we hear almost nothing about.

What drew you to Kenya?  What drew to you this camp?

BEN RAWLENCE:  Well, for nearly 10 years, I worked for Human Rights Watch.

And I first came to Dadaab, this refugee camp, in 2010.  And the place just blew my mind.  It was a complete shock to me that I hadn’t heard about it before, and, in fact, that this place should still exist.  At that time, it was 20 years old.  And now it’s 25 years old.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  It started out as something much smaller, refugees — one group of refugees.  It’s grown into something much bigger and, frankly, much worse.


I mean, Dadaab is the world’s biggest.  The Somali refugees came in 1991.  Since then, Somalia has descended into different phases of a civil war, and there have been waves of refugees, more and more coming, until it peaked in 2011, with around half-a-million refugees living in this one place.

It’s a bit like New Orleans.  It’s that many people, but spread over 30 square miles.  The tents are made of — or the houses are made of tents or sticks and mud.  And it’s — there’s no permanent structures.  So, there’s no plumbing.  There’s no concrete.  There’s no running water.

It’s a humanitarian disaster still, even after 25 years.  It’s constructed on temporary lines, and yet it’s become permanent.

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