Somali refugees forced to flee drought are continuing their lives in camps across the border in Ethiopia.

Resilience is hardly the word for the refugees that have trekked across the desert from deep in Somalia to Dolo Ado just over the Ethiopian border. There is a stoicism – an inner toughness – that hides the traumas that all have experienced and continue to endure.

1) Dolo Ado is tucked in the southeast corner of Ethiopia, about 40 kilometres north of the border with Kenya, and about five kilometres from Somalia. It would laughably be called a ‘refuge’ if it weren’t such a vision of hell [Peter Greste/Al Jazeera]


2) It is brutally hot – more than 40 degrees centigrade in the shade – if one can find it – with a constant wind that drives the gritty red dust into your eyes, up your nostrils, and between your teeth [Peter Greste/Al Jazeera]


3) At the Dolo Ado transit centre, refugees should – in theory – be given hot meals, tents, ground sheets and a few cooking pots as well as a chance to rest and recover from the punishing walk across the desert. From there, they are moved to more established camps dotted along the rutted road to Addis Ababa [Peter Greste/Al Jazeera]


4) The UN acknowledges that it has a huge backlog to deal with. The transit area alone has 14,000 people, crammed into a space originally intended for one-tenth that number, and although the flow of new arrivals has slowed from its peak of more than 2,000 a day a few weeks ago, the lack of food remains chronic [Peter Greste/Al Jazeera]


5) Shabby makeshift shelters built out of rags stretched across thorn-bush frames are squeezed alongside the comparatively spacious UN tents. The constant press of humanity, of people absolutely everywhere all the time, feels utterly overwhelming [Peter Greste/Al Jazeera]


6) The UN admits it was caught unprepared for the vast influx of refugees when this crisis erupted. But the logistical problems with supplying a camp like Dolo Ado are colossal [Peter Greste/Al Jazeera]


7) Food has to come from Addis Ababa, more than a thousand punishing kilometres away. It takes trucks more than three days to make the journey. And they need to establish an aid pipeline for about 120,000 people across all of Dolo Ado’s four sub-camps [Peter Greste/Al Jazeera]


8) All the talk of aid hides the deeper paradox of this crisis [Peter Greste/Al Jazeera]


9) The pictures emerging from the Horn of Africa seem to show helpless hoards of Somalis. They suggest an entire nation on its knees, begging bowl meekly pushed forward, entirely dependent on others for all their most basic needs. The image of a helpless, emaciated baby might well be a metaphor for all of Somalia [Peter Greste/Al Jazeera]


10) Except that these people are anything but helpless. They live in a place that would kill most of us in a matter of days, and the fiercely proud Somali culture emphasises gritty self-reliance and independence [Peter Greste/Al Jazeera]


11) Those who have fled to the refugee camps came here when their last animal died, or when they ate their last bag of maize; when they had absolutely no other choice [Peter Greste/Al Jazeera


12) For Somalis, drought is a normal part of existence, and they have a well-developed set of coping strategies that would help millions of them survive this latest disaster if only the war and its belligerents would get out of the way. To somehow regard Somalis as a people who can’t take care of themselves is to radically underestimate their resourcefulness [Peter Greste/Al Jazeera]


13) They are a nation of goat and camel herders, but they also have a reputation as consummate traders. Within days – sometimes even hours – of arriving in Dolo Ado, enterprising refugees had established small businesses. Women neatly arranged piles of firewood collected from the surrounding bush to sell [Peter Greste/Al Jazeera]


14) A tailor who had brought his precious pedal-powered sewing machine on the back of a donkey set up a stall fixing ragged clothes. He needed no advertising apart from the whir of his machine [Peter Greste/Al Jazeera]


15) Another man organised small bags of sugar, salt and fresh limes under the shade of some rags stretched across a few sticks [Peter Greste/Al Jazeera]


16) Collectively the drought has knocked this country down; a mix of conflict, politics and inflation has confounded traditional ways of dealing with a prolonged dry spell [Peter Greste/Al Jazeera]


17) Somalis are doing the best they can to survive without resorting to a begging bowl. Nobody enjoys the indignity of a dusty, overcrowded and fly-blown refugee camp. They are not helpless, but that doesn’t mean help is not needed [Peter Greste/Al Jazeera]


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