Entries in Emergency Response (1)


Somalia Refugee Camp: Ambulance Driver Tries to Help Pregnant Refugees

File Photo. Refugees wait in the registration area of the Dagahaley refugee camp which makes up part of the giant Dadaab refugee settlement on July 19, 2011 in Dadaab, Kenya.Oli Scarff/Getty Images(DADAAB, Kenya) -- Omar Abdullahi Ali has perhaps one of the world's toughest and most heartbreaking jobs -- driving an ambulance in the middle of one of the worst humanitarian crises in history.

Several years of drought have decimated crops and livestock in Somalia, forcing hundreds of thousands of refugees to seek help in camps in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia. The Dadaab complex in eastern Kenya is the largest refugee camp in the world. Almost 400,000 Somalis now call it home, and more than 1,400 arrive every day.

The rainy season is not expected until October at the earliest, and the ongoing presence of al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups in Somalia have made it nearly impossible for international aid to get to the camps.

For Abdullahi Ali, it's not just the overwhelming crush of people in need, as dozens starve or are afflicted with infectious disease. There are no paramedics to help and no medical equipment. His ambulance, which really isn't an ambulance at all, just a white all-terrain vehicle, doesn't even have a siren, so Abdullahi Ali uses the horn to let patients know he is coming.

Out here, almost no one has a phone. Medical emergencies are reported through a loose word-of-mouth network that will hopefully reach Abdullahi Ali's walkie-talkie.

Locating patients among the sea of makeshift huts and white tents issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is incredibly difficult because the camps are so big and spread out. Some of the most critical patients are pregnant women and newborns, who are the most susceptible to disease.

One woman named Maloon Adan Mohammed gave birth a month ago to a son she named Hassan. Mohammed delivered her baby by herself in a tiny tent without any medical attention because there weren't enough ambulances in the area.

While out in search for another woman who was rumored to be in labor, Abdullahi Ali came upon more emergencies. By chance, he found a different woman, nine months pregnant and in pain. She will be one of the lucky ones who will be picked up by his ambulance, and given medical care with a warm bed and a full meal.

For other expectant mothers, there is little to do but wait for the sound of Abdullahi Ali's horn.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio