Wednesday, 23 March 2011


 By: Moulid Iftin Hujale
IFO, Dadaab.

The number of people with Albinism has increased with the growing new influxes that flock to the congested refugee camps of Dadaab in north eastern Kenya. Currently, there are over twenty Somali individuals with the albinism dwelling in the camps.

Their poor living conditions are characterized with unfavorable housing/shelter, harsh and dusty environment coupled with hot scorching sun, lack of enough food and moreover unbearable discrimination. This makes them to be the most vulnerable people in the Dadaab refugee set up. “My son died in a very bad situation. I watched him helplessly until his body turned into bloody tissues” cries Habibo as she explains how her two year old son died in Hagadera camp.

Albinism is not a disease but a condition. It is just lack of pigmentation in the skin and hair of a person. It is mainly an inherited genetic condition and can affect all human being. However, there are many speculations about the condition and its effect on human live. These speculations vary from one community to another depending on their traditional believes.

Due to the lack of pigmentation in their skin which could protect them from sun burn, Albinos are recommended to use appropriate clothing, sunscreens and hats. But that is impossible in a place like Dadaab where the question is not about what to wear but what to eat and where to live?  “My major problem as for now is shelter, I don’t know where to start from and my children are suffering” says Osman Aden, an Albino who arrived recently. 

After registration by UNHCR, new arrivals are advised to look for relatives with whom they can live. With no immediate support they begin to taste what it means to be A REFUGEE?  Some are forced to stay in make shifts at the outcast of the camp while others desperately hang under trees. The struggle for shelter, water and food in the congested camps of Dadaab is a real marathon for refugees. However, the Albinos are always left behind due to the isolation and discrimination they receive from the community. No relative welcomes them in fear of being “infected” by the “disease” as they refer to the condition of Albinism. “Some even think that we are cannibals” says Osman.

For Muhubo Abdiaziz, a mother of two girls between the age of two and five years with the albinism, the issue is more than just discrimination. “My daughters are stoned on sight. I always keep them indoors” says Muhubo remorsefully.  “It is even worse when they are admitted in the main hospital. All patients demand for our isolation.” She adds.

Hassan Abdullahi, 11 years old with Albinism, cannot go to school due to the high level of stigma he is subjected to. “They call him names and question his race weather he is a real Somali or a white boy?” says his mother. This happens daily within the neighborhood where hassan resides. His parents are afraid of losing their son if they take him to school.

One of the most challenging factors the Albinos face in the camps is the hot scorching sun that is known for Dadaab region.  Temperatures in the camps are mostly above 30 degrees Celsius and sometimes reach forty, especially during droughts. Their skin changed from already white to reddish dark spots. “I better go back to Somalia than staying here only to wait for the death of my second child” says Dahabo, a mother of a 3 year old daughter with albinism. She too lost her son who was 5 years old in Hagadera camp.

Despite all these challenges, humanitarian agencies in Dadaab do their best to support refugees with their basic human rights and other necessary requirements. However, this is not true according to these vulnerable people who would rather receive especial attention. Muhubo, Hassan’s mother almost refused to talk to “The Refugee” newsletter arguing that she was tired of talking to aid agencies, filling forms and listening to empty promises. After explaining to her about the newsletter  this is what she had to say “Some of them (Aid agencies) came claiming to save my child while some say they are for the disables; each filled its own form but all in vain!”  “Three years have gone now and none of them came with durable solution” she added.


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