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Success stories from world’s biggest refugee camp

Twenty years since the first refugee families sought temporary shelter there, the number of people living in Dadaab refugee camp in north eastern Kenya is still swelling.

Dadaab was set up in 1991 to give 90,000 people a safe place to stay amid fighting in the horn of Africa. Some of the younger residents have never called anywhere else home.

And in the face of sheer desperation, people in Dadaab are managing to make a success of their lives.

Ardo Ahmed was five years old when her family fled the horrors of war in Somalia.

But now at 24, she is preparing for her wedding day. Just like most young brides, Ardo has had other relationships and been with her fiancé for two years.

"Love is everywhere, even in refugee camps,” she said. “People think refugees are too desperate to fall in love but no, love is natural.”

"Refugees are also human, they fall in love, they have relationships, they get married, they have children," she told the BBC World Service.

"In this camp you often have weddings taking place. No matter where you are you will always find love."

Even though she was only five at the time, Ardo she still remembers the war.

"I remember the gunshots and everything, I remember how some of our neighbours were killed in front of us," she says. "When we saw the blood around us our parents said: 'This is what war does to people.'"

After fleeing Somalia and arriving at Dadaab, they still weren’t safe, women especially. "In those days we had to spend the night in the toilets, because there was much less security," she says. "We were scared of being raped."

There are now 28 aid agencies working to protect women and children in Dadaab, but when Ardo arrived there were three.

Despite her brutal experiences there Ardo still hopes to go back to Somalia
"Just because I am a refugee now, doesn't mean I will be forever,” she said.

Dr Gedi Mohammed is a Kenyan Somali and works on the front line, treating new arrivals to the camp. His work life is gruelling and many of the patients he sees have never had any sort of medical care in their lives. And there is little respite – living in the camp, he is with the same people he works with 24 hours a day.

Dr Mohammed has worked in Dadaab a year and a half. "In a crisis like it is now, it is really easy to give up. But if you think of all the positive things that you have done, it will make you stay more and more."

Hayley attribution