Related topics

Suffer the Children: Love, Death in Kenyan Refugee Camp With AM-Horn’s Homeless, Bjt

September 27, 1992

DAGAHALEY CAMP, Kenya (AP) _ Habiba Ali, 20, lovingly holds her son Mohamed as a doctor with a large syringe feeds him through a nasal tube. The 2-year-old is little larger than a newborn.

Like so many others in this eastern Kenya camp for Somali refugees, Mohamed may have arrived at the feeding center too late. Scores of tiny mounds in a graveyard 300 yards away attest to his probable fate.

″We have social workers who go tent to tent, finding kids whose mothers wouldn’t bring them in for one reason or another,″ said Eddie Kangara, a Kenyan official with CARE International who supervises the camp. ″It’s often too late.″

Elodie Martel, a Montreal native who is in charge of social services for CARE’s camps in Kenya, said many of the Somali women, traumatized by the anarchy they left behind to seek safety, are desperately afraid of authority figures, even doctors.

But she also spoke of the ultimate desperation of some parents.

″She will come and say, ‘My child died.’ But really, the mother or father has pushed with one hand over the child’s eyes, and put the other over the mouth,″ Miss Martel said. ″I’ve talked to doctors who have seen it done. They say the baby doesn’t fight at all.

″Apparently they figure why give medicine to my child - she’s hopeless - when others can be saved.″

No matter how professional the charity worker, the pressure of seeing dead children every day is telling.

Riding on the back of a pickup truck into Liboi camp just east of Dagahaley, regional camp coordinator Gail Neudorf of Vancouver, B.C., pointed to a group of men standing and talking.

″Look at those men. Do you see anybody malnourished? No,″ she said.

″That’s because the men eat first, the women eat next, then the children eat - if there’s anything left after the animals eat. That’s what really hurts: The animals eat before the children.

″It makes sense for survival in the nomadic culture. But not now.″

Update hourly