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Ethiopia: Apparently I was lucky to get the ‘big’ plane

Apparently I was lucky to get the ‘big’ plane. For staff travelling from Addis Ababa to our field base in Dollo Ado it’s pot luck whether you’re on board the UN Humanitarian Air Services 10-seater or the ‘big’ 20-seater plane.

The latter takes just under two hours to reach the dusty town of Dollo Ado on the Ethiopian border with Somalia.

As you fly, the green highlands and tree covered valleys and plateaus give way to more and more deep red sand. The airport in Dollo is a single tent and I’m collected to take the short drive to the Save the Children compound in Dollo Ado town.

After landing, I was given my security briefing. Fortunately, the most concerning element seemed to be the rats that may roam around my bedroom.

Home to 170,000 refugees

Save the Children has been working in Dollo Ado for the past 20 years, and is now the largest NGO working in the five refugee camps that are home to over 170,000 Somalis, forced to flee their homes by drought and conflict.

The first refugees arrived in 2009 and the first camp, Bokomayo was opened. A second camp was opened in 2010 and then the devastating food crisis of 2011 led to a massive influx of people and the opening of three additional camps.

Dollo is home to 135 Save the Children staff, working on both longer term development projects and the ongoing humanitarian response.

Massive need

In addition, there are 650 volunteers across the five camps, helping us carry out vital nutrition, education and child protection work. I’m here to see how things have changed since last year.

The rates of severe malnutrition have dropped and this has partly been down to successful support from the Ethiopian government and organisations like Save the Children.

But it is also clear that there are still massive needs here as Save the Children continues to respond to a humanitarian crisis and the refugees continue to arrive.

The compound in Dollo Ado where some staff live is basic but comfortable. The incessant heat and dust can be tiring, but there is a great spirit among the team here.

I also know that this is going to be nothing compared to how the Somali refugees are living and trying to survive in this harsh environment.

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