The bloodbaths in the Kakuma camp tended to start with hunger and desperation.
Camps like Kakuma receive millions of dollars a year in food aid, but there is always demand for more. Right now, Kakuma is 10,000 people over capacity (Dadaab, another camp in Kenya, is 340,000 people over capacity), which means there's not nearly enough food to go around. Today, 17 percent of the people in the Kakuma refugee camp are malnourished. "If we had two meals a day, we were lucky," Abdi told us. "At the age of 7, I had to start earning my own meals." All most of us had to earn at age 7 was the right to take the class hamster home for the weekend.
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Millions in aid may seem like a lot, but when feeding the equivalent of Knoxville,
it doesn't stretch that far.
According to Abdi, food became a kind of currency. If you had enough to eat, you could use it to pay other people to make your life easier. Even if that someone was 7 years old. "I used to dig a hole that could be used as a bathroom and then carry the [waste] out to the lake, which was a mile and a half," Abdi said. "I earned a meal a day (from other refugees) doing that." That kind of economy can function only if there's a lot of desperation, and since Kakuma's police force is only barely present, that desperation often turns to violence. "Sometimes [someone with guns] would sell us chicken or the cows, and then at night they'd come and take it back by force. If you yelled or screamed, they'd just blast you."
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Reminder: This is violence over groceries.