We’re two kilometers from the Somali border and about 35 from Kenya. Dollo Ado is the primary Ethiopian intake center for Somali refugees. There are probably a dozen aid agencies here all working together to patch together programs for an increasing flow of very hungry refugees. About 140,000 are in the camps today, but the numbers are rapidly growing.
Extended drought, political instability, and an uptick in military and paramilitary confrontations have sent numbers skyrocketing in the last few days. Normal flow here has been 50 new refugees a day. Yesterday there were 500. There are some new multi-government offensives against Al Shabaab, and the poor and hungry are trying to get out of the way. Driving today to deliver some stoves we were reminded of the ongoing political violence that is a constant threat in the lives of some of the poorest people on earth.
Stoves in flatbed passing tank (F.Colgan)
Today we did a workshop for cooks at the “wet feeding center” where new arrivals are fed high-value meals until they make some recovery from the malnutrition most are experiencing. Some kids remain in treatment for several weeks until they can regain their strength. New intakes then move to the “transit center”, where they await placement in camps and continue to be fed. Almost 20,000 are in the transit center now. The cooks in the two intake/transit centers cook for thousands of people a day. They are cooking 1600 liters of food per meal over 16 three stone fires – twice a day. Mountains of firewood. Smoke beyond belief. In 2012 we are going to bring out a 100 Liter Stove for service in situations like this, and for larger schools across Africa where big stoves are critically needed. It is most satisfying to bring our stoves to these hard-working cooks.
Cooks at wet feeding center (F.Colgan)
Tomorrow we travel to Bokolmayo Camp, where some 40,000 refugees are housed. Camps are being established in rather remote areas because current strategy is to try to set up where the refugees will not need to compete with existing populations for scarce resources. Even new camps show clear zones of surrounding areas being picked clean of firewood. There are problems upon problems to solve in these relocation efforts, and we are awestruck at the fortitude and determination of the agencies on the ground providing the basic services these people need.A breakthrough today was the arrival of a large backhoe for digging pit latrines – one of the hardest tasks in setting up the camps. The terrain here is an old seabed, and just under the sandy topsoil is sandstone – backbreaking and slow to dig through by hand.
The emotion we feel again and again traveling over this area is how OLD everything is. These pastoral people are living in the old ways – herding flocks of goats, cattle, donkeys, across trackless scrubland. The mountains are worn down. This really does feel like the place the human experience began.In this region of Ethiopia most people are from Somali tribes. Here’s the classic version of a Somali dwelling – built in the old style. They are graceful and elegant – and ancient in form.
Traditional Somali dwelling (F.Colgan)
On Thursday, a blog from the transit center.Hello to all, home in ten days.