The heat is stifling, the heat drains life of any purpose or desire, the heat sets the
sand ablaze, smolders the clouds and leaves no respite. It is the caretaker of the
world’s largest refugee camp: Dadaab, in Kenyan territory, 80 kilometers from the Somali border. At dawn the pick-ups arrive at Hagadera packed with sacks. As these are unloaded dozens of men and women rush to open them, grab the bunches of khat and get ready to sell the psychotropic substance. Khat is a plant grown and used in Kenya, the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It contains ketamine, a substance similar to amphetamine, which produces euphoria, excitement, inhibits hunger and increases sex drive. In Dadaab, the use of these leaves, which the World Health Organization has classified as a drug, has become a social scourge. Addiction is increasing, as are depression, mental disturbances and paranoia caused by its use. But there is more: women also pay the price of its abuse; while not being allowed to use it , they are increasingly the victims of rape perpetrated by men under its effect.
Report by Daniele Bellocchio and Marco Gualazzini