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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Somalia: The Face of ‘Displacement’

We have not forgotten the families who fled their homes during last year’s drought in the Horn of Africa. Many of them are now living as refugees in camps outside of Mogadishu, Somalia. Staying home meant starving, so they are congregating in areas where organizations like ours can provide emergency supplies of food.

They are living a kind of bizarre half-life — they are merely about surviving. Home means having people in your life and the means at your disposal to be healthy, make plans, execute them, and feel you have a modicum of control over your fate. It means having a hoe to work your garden with; it also means having a caring neighbour who will tend your garden if you need to nurse your child all day long.

These refugees have none of that — they are utterly dependent on aid. The term ‘internally displaced persons’ is used for these families and although it’s dry and technical, the image of being ‘displaced’ is wholly accurate. These families are floating in a fearful reality; in these circumstances, they can’t get a foothold into a secure and self-sufficient place. Our long-term plan is to equip the refugees we are aiding with the means to reestablish their homes and livelihoods — to give them, again, a sense of place and belonging.

For now, easing their fear and ensuring their physical survival is top of mind. When we talk to people in the camp, their relief and also their stress is palpable.

Faay Salaad Ambuure is a mother of seven who came from Wanlaweyn district of Lower Shabelle. She told us, “My family lost all of our livestock and farming tools. This is the first time we’ve been given good food. It is enough for the whole month.” She thanked us many times.

A woman named Baabilo Dhakalow said, “These rations…make our life brighter.” But then she talked about how difficult it is to get enough water in the camp. “When we want to get water,” she said, “we go two to three miles away as we don’t have wells around.”

Mohamed Shidane from Dondhere, Afgoi district, is a farmer and father of eight. Shidane said that he lost everything that brought in income: faming tools, twenty caws, and a donkey. Fortunately all his children were safely brought to the camp. He told us, “It is the first time I have received…food”, and assured us that “the food provided is greatly needed and is enough to last my family for a month.”

Soon enough, we will be helping these families to find their place again. For now, keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

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