By Natasha Elkington
Through my video “The children of Dadaab: Life through the Lens” I wanted to tell the story of the Somali children living in Kenya’s Dadaab. Living in the world’s largest refugee camp, they are the ones bearing the brunt of Africa’s worst famine in sixty years.
I wanted to see if I could tell their story through a different lens, showing their daily lives instead of just glaring down at their ribbed bodies and swollen eyes.
It was a challenging project. As one senior photographer asked, how else can we tell the story without showing images that clearly illustrate the plight of the starving millions? Few photographs cover all aspects of life in the camps.
Many of Dadaab’s children are dying. And then there are others who, despite living in the world’s oldest refugee camp, embrace their childhood; they play, go to school, care for their siblings and collect water for their families. I wanted to incorporate all of these aspects of life for Dadaab’s children into this project.
To tell the story, I combined Reuters photography captured during the height of the famine with footage I had collected when I was in Dadaab six months ago, before the severity of the crisis hit international headlines.
The point is, when news of the famine made it to the front pages, the children I had filmed in Dadaab were now only perceived as children on the frontline of famine. Not just as children who were excited with the furor we brought to the camp.
It is already too late for some of these children, as nearly 30,000 have died in the Horn of Africa since July, and another half a million could suffer the same fate if not enough action is taken. With the onset of the rainy season ahead, many of the weak and malnourished risk succumbing in large numbers to outbreaks of diseases like Cholera.
Photographers who have visited the camp speak of the resilience of the people there. When the cameras go away, the children who are able get on with their daily lives in the shadow of the threats.
The children’s famine has not gone away. This is a glimpse at what it means to be a child in Dadaab.