COVID Reading: Review of City of Thorns (Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp)

To the charity workers, Dadaab refugee camp is a humanitarian crisis; to the Kenyan government, it is a ‘nursery for terrorists’; to the western media, it is a dangerous no-go area; but to its half a million residents, it is their last resort.Ben Rawlence

When I came across this book, I was eager to dig into it. Having previously worked in a non-governmental organization with operations in Dadaab, I did not get a chance to step foot in Dadaab though I did support the activities there. This book gave me a chance to walk through Dadaab in the eyes of Ben Rawlence.

He tells the story of Dadaab through nine people, which was a good way to give us different scenarios as experienced in the camps. He takes us through the life of crime and corruption in the camps. For those living in Kenya, this is not new information. This is the story in other parts of Kenya as well.

It is the dream of every refugee to be resettled in developed countries. Some have had this chance through the open spots for resettlement in countries like the USA, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, among others. For those who have missed out on resettlement, they have had to call the camp home.

You can’t help but feel sad when reading through the book as it presents the reality of lack of and inadequate resources. The book is insightful and offers a vital message to the world on the plight of refugees. While it was a good read, it causes confusion, and one has to refer back to the previous pages. The confusion comes from following the nine characters. I think the author should have focused on fewer main characters to ensure a smooth flow of the story. Nonetheless, grab the book for an insightful read.

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