I first went to the Dadaab refugee camp, close to the border between Kenya and Somalia, at the end of 2006. Strangely enough, the camp was flooded then. The same parched ground recorded in my photographs was covered by 3 feet of water.
Then, people were fleeing from the camp, not fleeing to the camp as they are today. Dadaab has become the largest refugee camp in the world, and Kenya’s fourth largest city: 440,000 people have gathered in makeshift shelters, made of branches and tarps.
Experiencing Dadaab again last week was profoundly humbling. I was confronted with deep suffering and need. Slowing down and talking to people, I heard stories of indomitable courage and determination and of making horrible choices. Most of these people have survived 20 years of war in Somalia, two years of drought, and it’s only now that they are fleeing their homeland. They are accomplished survivors.
One morning, I was talking to a family of ten. I poured a full glass of water from a pitcher and passed it to a child. He took a sip, and passed it on to his brother and so on. The last one returned it to me with enough left for the last gulp. Even in the camp, they take only what they need to survive and share the rest. What you see on the surface looks like extreme fragility, but it’s actually tremendous resilience and the extraordinary affirmation of their will to live."