• | IOM Djibouti

Mobile Patrol

Migrants stranded in the desert receive medical care, water and food provided by IOM through a mobile patrol in Obock, Djibouti. Photo: IOM Djibouti 2023/Patrick Singh

This morning, it was Abdallah who went to pick up the order of 300 baguettes from the bakery. He brought back the 10 bags to the kitchen and then got into the car to start collecting his colleagues at the roundabout from 7:45 am. For three years, he has been part of the team of four drivers at Obock from IOM, one of whom is often on a mission in Djibouti. Together, they ensure the daily transportation of teams and field trips, the supply of the MRC, the transport of patients between the Center and Obock hospital, and driving the ambulance on mobile patrols. When Abdallah talks about these daily outings in the desert, his speech speeds up, and his eyes start to sparkle. 

Every day of the year, even during the khamsin period, a car loaded with several tens of liters of water, medicines, dates, and energy bars leaves the Migration Response Center (MRC) in late morning or late afternoon towards Moulhoulé, about 70 km north of Obock, to find distressed migrants in need of medical assistance or just guidance or water. On board, IOM personnel assist the most vulnerable migrants, often dehydrated and heavily affected by the extreme climatic conditions of this area. 

"These are our contacts in the north, our DTM (Displacement Tracking Matrix) agents or the local populations along the corridor axis who call us to report the presence of a group of migrants in the Khor Angar zone or isolated lost migrants."

For several months now, the ambulance has also been going to Lake Assal (in the Danakil Desert, in central Djibouti), another route on the migration corridor. 

A race against time begins, searching for traces of passage, footprints, any clue allowing them to steer the wheel in one direction rather than another, wasting as little time as possible "because an individual's life can depend on our ability to find them, and sometimes it's a matter of minutes," he adds with a shy smile. 

Abdallah has as many poignant stories to tell as outings he's been on.

"I've seen people in very vulnerable states, the dead, I've seen men with emaciated bodies cling to life by drinking their urine, I've dug in the desert with the doctor to bury corpses; sometimes we arrived too late, we saved many people, I've seen lifeless eyes light up again at the sight of a simple bottle of water."

Migrants stranded in the desert receive medical care, water and food provided by IOM through a mobile patrol in Obock, Djibouti. Photo: IOM Djibouti 2023/Patrick Singh

In his three years working with IOM, the driver has learned Amharic and Oromo to be able to communicate with migrants, as well as first aid techniques. He says that when he drives from Djibouti to Obock with his children, they systematically buy bread and water to distribute to those walking on the roadside with nothing.

"It's important for me to make my family aware of this reality that is my daily life. I wouldn't like my children to look away from these women and men risking their lives while we comfortably return home. 'If you help without expecting anything in return, you will be helped,' I want to teach them."

Stories taken from the collection “Obock, at the Crossroads of the East” written by Agnès Matha based on her meetings with people housed in the IOM Migration Response Centre (MRC) in Djibouti. This book was produced as part of the Regional Migration Response Plan for the East and Horn of Africa and Yemen thanks to the generous contribution of the European Union, the joint initiative Better Migration Management funded by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), coordinated by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), and the United States Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

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