The hidden focus

by Luca Catalano Gonzaga

Composed of 5 camps and with a population of more than 420,000 refugees, Dadaab, located in the North of Kenya, a few kilometres from the border of Somalia, is the largest refugee camp in the world. Three quarters of its population are children under 12, women and elderly. The camp was originally opened as a temporary one in 1992 and is still home to people fleeing famine, drought and war. The population has continuously struggled to survive and live amidst the effects of a protracted emergency with no clear end in sight. International media forgot this population for a long time but the recent Tripartite Agreement between the Kenyan and Somali governments and UNHCR which sets the conditions for voluntary repatriation of the Somali refugees, is focussing their attention on Dadaab’s forgotten people. According to Doctors without Borders Survey of March 2014, only 1 out 5 refugees want to come back to Somalia. The reason why most Somalis fled their home are as pertinent today as they ever were and preclude most refugees from even considering returning to Somalia today or at any time soon. They prefer to live in a “home” that offers fear, insecurity and overcrowded living conditions instead of starting from zero in their country. In the Dadaab refugee camp the first step to providing refugees with food and water is identifying them. In the suffocating heat of the tent, newly arrived women, children and the elderly face the task of photo identification. These photos were taken a moment before their official identification photos. Their faces are then put on a badge. This badge then entitles them access to food rations. These images by Luca Catalano Gonzaga tell a story of people fleeing their homelands, where individuals become numbers, mouths to feed, food rations to distribute. (text by Luca Catalano Gonzaga).