It is hard to imagine summoning the courage to walk up to 100 miles toward an unknown refugee camp in another country.  That more than 700,000 refugees from Somalia already made this journey is remarkable. Of course many who started the journey did not make it to the end. Others perished at home, either too weak to leave in the first place or prevented from leaving by Al-Shabaab.

USAID’s  FWD Campaign is using infographics to make the crisis more comprehensible on the macro level. But to understand the human side of the crisis we turn to our partners working on the ground in the Horn of Africa as they share their stories of the people impacted by famine, war, and drought.

Here is part of one such compelling story provided by Helen Keller International:

Little Abdulay Sahal Mohamed from Somalia arrived with his family five days ago. His entire family – his parents and six other siblings – walked for 21 days before reaching a reception point at the Kenya/Somalia border to be transported to Dadaab by UNHCR.

I can tell just by just looking at Abdulay that he suffers from severe acute malnutrition. He’s three, but weighs only 6.1 kg (13.4 pounds); his arms are very thin, measuring 9.2 cm. His father, however, considers him “very lucky”; two of his younger siblings died during their journey from starvation.

Since Abdulay cannot take food orally, he is on nasogastric tube. His condition is improving and he could be referred to outpatient care soon. At the Ifo Refugee Camp, another 3,000 children under five years old are severely malnourished, with more arriving every day.

Read the rest of Abdulay’s story at Helen Keller International.

Another compelling story comes from the International Medical Corps. Part of their story reads:

Thousands of Somali people are fleeing their country for survival and in hope of a better life for their children and themselves. They arrive with very little except for the clothes they are wearing, some extra pieces of fabric and, if they are lucky, jerry cans. These ‘jerry cans’ are simply old, plastic oil containers.

During their journeys, which for some take up to two months by foot, there are very few, if any remaining water sources on their path suitable for drinking due to the drought in East Africa. Jerry cans are the only way to carry this basic necessity with them.

By the time they reach the refugee camps, these water containers are often filled with green algae and offer a breeding place for many types of diseases.

Learn more about this Simple Campaign to Ensure Safe Drinking Water for Somali Refugees at International Medical Corps.

Finally, Catholic Relief Service compiled an interactive photo gallery where you can click on one of six images to learn the stories of individuals who walked day and night to reach shelter. All of these individuals are now residents of the Dadaab in Kenya, now the world’s largest refugee camp. Here is an example of one of these stories:

“I left Somalia in a group of several families, 29 people. I was about 5 months pregnant when we started walking. It was all on foot, no vehicle, 330 miles. I was so hungry when I was walking. There were a lot of hyenas and lions. The men threw stones at them to protect us. It took 2 months and 25 days to get here. I gave birth in the camp. My baby boy was sick when he was born.”

– Farheya Ahmed, Refugee

See the full photo gallery at Catholic Relief Service.

Over the coming weeks and months we will be featuring additional stories from NGOs on the ground.