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As home to roughly 465,000 people, the Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya is the largest refugee camp in the world. It has a population equivalent to that of Kansas City, Mo., but at a tightly packed 31 square miles, the entire camp sits on roughly the same area allotted to a single off-the-grid tribesman in the Brazilian Amazon.

Refugees continue to trickle in, most of them Somalians fleeing hunger and conflict, while older residents now consider the camp their long-term home after living there for a decade or more. So what does life in this accidental city look like?

The BBC posted a slideshow this week to show us. Some of the photos capture the mundane, like the shot of Asha Mohamed, who runs a beauty shop inside the camp. Others depict the privation that promises to worsen as the camp recedes from the public eye and donations slow. In one shot, a mother sits on the floor of her house crafted from  plastic bags, her two bleary-eyed sons with her clearly in poor health.

Faced with real threats of kidnapping, aid workers and journalists are avoiding Dadaab, a factor that will almost certainly add to residents' hardships.

As Dadaab's population continues to rise, Heifer International is working in the drought-addled region, planning projects that will help people in the Horn of Africa weather future crises.


Austin Bailey

Austin Bailey is a writer and editor for Heifer's World Ark magazine.