(ERGO) – Abdirishid Mohamed Abdi, a Somali refugee and businessman, sits dejectedly beside his stall displaying the few pairs of shoes he salvaged from the fire that destroyed his clothing shop in Dhagahaley market in the sprawling Dadaab camps in northern Kenya.
Behind him are the ashes of the blaze that broke out on 11 September, throwing Abdirashid’s family of 10 and hundreds of other refugees into financial crisis. The family can no longer afford three meals a day and the children’s education .
“I lost four large cartons of shoes each worth at least $2,000. I brought them from Mogadishu. I also lost bundles of clothes,” he said, wondering how he would ever be able to revive the business.
“I was the sole breadwinner for my family and others. I used to send money to my paternal aunt living in Luq, but what can I send her now? We used to be self-sufficient and depended on nobody except God. Now we’ve reached the point where we are having to ask relatives to send us money for the month,” he told Radio Ergo.
Abdirashid’s total losses were around $30,000 including his merchandise, as well as cash and the business premises. He had built the business over since arriving in the camps from Somalia in 1996, fleeing conflict.
From daily sales of more than $50 he is now lucky to make a dollar. Five of his children have dropped out of school after he failed to pay their fees. Three were at Imamu Shafi’i secondary. Despite his requests, his relatives abroad have so far failed to send him any money for education.
Isaq Iidle Hassan is at home after losing his barbershop in the market fire. All his equipment was destroyed, and he has no cash to invest in reopening. He used to be able to support his family and also employed five other young men.
“I was someone who was working yesterday and was well known in town and you can see my situation today,” he told Radio Ergo. “I feel sad whenever I think of the setback that has left me with nothing.”
Iidle’s family now relies on the monthly distributions of food aid in the camp, which consists of a kilo of maize, wheat, pearled barley, and cooking oil. It is not enough to sustain the family for a whole month.
Dhagahaley camp leader Abdullahi Ali Adan estimated the total losses in the market blaze at around $3 million. The disaster coincides with the harsh economic downturn resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of families are affected.
“Our relatives who used to reach out to us when we needed something are now themselves complaining, they tell us there is no work. The market fire coincided with the drop in remittances through the hawalas (money transfer companies) since March, so these problems are additional challenges we have to grapple with,” he said.
With the depressed economy and other factors, there is no sign at the moment of any investment and support forthcoming to rebuild the market.