Changing Planet

With K’naan in Somalia (Part 2): Photo Blog of World’s Largest Refugee Camp

In a second post from Somalia, Sol Guy tells how he and Somali-born rapper K’naan found themselves in Daadab, the world largest refugee camp. “The more I walked in the camp, the more it felt like a jail without bars,” he writes. K’naan’s business partner and manager, Sol Guy is also a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

Sol and K’naan visited Somalia to raise awareness of the plight of millions of people starving in the country. (Read his first post — With K’naan in Somalia: Photos from the Edge.) Watch the video below for more information about their mission to Somalia:


Video shot and cut by Jordan Haro

By Sol Guy

Daadab, Somalia —I’ve tried for days to write about the time we recently spent in Daadab, the world largest refugee camp. Yet everything I wrote seemed trite and preachy, obvious or angry. What I can say is that this placed confused me. The term refugee is derived from the word refuge, which means a place of protection, shelter, and safety. It makes sense that a refugee camp would be an embodiment of all these things and more. Unfortunately, best intentions and a lack of foresight have allowed for the refugee camps of the world to become a tragic failure and a reflection of our collective incompetence.


Daadab Refugee Camp, Somalia. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


With over 440,000 people, Daadab has more residents than the city of Atlanta, Georgia.  However, this place was built to house 40,000 people. You depend on others for food and water, there are no schools, industry, or employment, and you’re unable to leave the city. The more I walked in the camp, the more it felt like a jail without bars.


Daadab Refugee Camp, Somalia. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


Our ability to innovate when it comes to technology, war, and science knows no bounds.  How is it that we’re unable to innovate when it comes to people who’ve escaped the worst of circumstance, to create not only a place of true refuge but a place of empowerment, and opportunity?


Windy greeting for myself, K'naan and Cindy McCain. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


Our first peek at the camp. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


A 20-year-old Sign. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


Grim Greeting. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


While there are many people doing extraordinary [work] as it relates to improving the human condition, we need to collectively re-think what it means to deliver “aid”.  Seems that the traditional nonprofit is a nonprofit all the way around, especially for the people that will likely not profit from our well intentioned yet misguided policy-focused efforts.  We are not without caring, we’re heart-driven beings, fueled by passion and possibility…It’s time to progress.


He's four years old. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


The long walk, followed buy the wait to gain access to the camp and essentials. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


The Edge. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


The camp's as wide as the sky. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


Still Shining! Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


She asked for a photo of her family. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


Provide Famine Relief in Somalia

Make a donation right now to provide famine relief in Somalia. Neighbors Initiative is a program to strengthen the fabric of local communities by uniting and mobilizing to provide desperately needed humanitarian relief in Somalia. It’s a partnership between the American Refugee Committee and the Somali community. We’ll put your donation to work immediately, bringing life-saving support to families in Somalia. Food, clean water, sanitation, shelter — people really need our help, Neighbors Initiative says on its website. Find out more.


Seeking rest. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


A briefing for Mrs. McCain, Dikembe and K'naan... picture says a thousand...Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


Making the most of what is given. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


Collecting firewood -- a daily routine always difficult and often dangerous for the young women of the camp. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


As a parent all you can see is yourself, Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


All the potential in the world. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


Even the trees have thorns. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.


Alive, Alive, Alive. Photo credit: Nabil Elderkin.
Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • hass

    whats happening there cant be described..i wish we can all do more..

  • Cynthia Garnett

    This is so tragic and it is hard to believe that most Canadians can’t give something to help out.

  • Syed Ahsan Zaidi

    if people of the first world will stop spending on their pets and rather send that money to these people, few children will surely be saved! After all we are a family and earth is our home!

  • Twinkle Banerjee

    and yet we complaint about why we haven’t been on a vacation, didn’t find the dress we were looking for.. or why the food didn’t taste the same in our favourite restaurant.. I can’t believe after seeing this how no body would want to help!! only a person so blind with sheer ignorance can turn a blind eye to this!!

  • Kim Bidias

    The human spirit is something else, in such despair, you can find smiles on some of the suffering people faces. WOW!

  • Angèle Rondeau

    We have the will we have all the knowledge we have the means to avoid that : let’s concert our efforts and we will feel much better as mankind! Please suggest long term means and we wil rally the planet to this primordial cause! Ye we can as a planetary tightly knitted family . No more sufferings like this please please please

  • Aida

    What is happening in Somalia is heartbreaking. If we would make giving a part of our regular lives, as frequently as trips to the mall, this would not need to happen. 1st world are countries of many “needs”, which in reality are only “wants”. Turn those wants into giving.

  • […] Mutambo and others, here’s your chance. Click the photo to open the blog stream.  (Source:…) PermalinkPosted: Sep 01 2011Tags: somaliaComments: […]

  • Brittany

    so sad,
    i wish i could help… if i was a millionaire
    i would give thousands of money to them every year..

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (

Social Media