Posted on June 21, 2012 / Comments Off / Show post tags
The threat of famine and continuing conflict in Somalia has forced over 150 000 refugees to flee their homes for camp Dollo Ado in Ethiopia. But for the thousands of traumatised Somalis who have escaped violence and death at the hands of Islamist militia, life remains hard in the overcrowded camps as food grows scarce, reports Philipp Hedemann from the camp
“We are Somalis and we want to return to our homeland. Allah, please help us!” Farah Ibrahim chants out loud.
The 30 boys sitting in the dust before him answer like an echo to the longing words of the seven-year-old, though they have just fled their homeland from fear of death at the hands of the Islamic Al-Shabaab militia or death by famine.
Together with around 150 000 other Somalis, they have found shelter in the Ethiopian refugee camp Dollo Ado. Life is hard in the dusty savannah tent city, where temperatures often exceed 45 degrees, but at least you can live here.
“In Somalia, I had my own goats. But they all died. Here, in the camp no one has goats,” says shepherd boy Farah.
While he sings soulfully with his friends of the homeland, less than 100 meters away a young girl, Hamdi, wolfs down porridge from a plastic cup. The United Nations´ World Food Programm (WFP) ensures that the kids in the emergency school get at least one nourishing meal a day.
Hamdi swallows down the grey slime as if making up for what she missed during the 20-day flight to Dollo Ado. Day and night she walked with her parents and eight siblings, sometimes passing out from hunger.
Hamdi is just one of thousands of traumatised children who found shelter in the five camps of Dollo Ado. They have seen their relatives, friends and animals dying; they have suffered hunger and thirst; they are haunted by their memories.
Volunteer teacher Faduma tries to offer them at least some kind of childhood; she dances and plays with them. “Usually, you don’t need to teach children how to play. They do it naturally. But these kids simply saw too much. Often, they don’t even trust their own peers,” says Faduma, who lost several cousins herself during the 20 years of civil war.
Highest mortality rate
Last summer, during the peak of the worst drought in the Horn of Africa for 60 years, 2 000 starving people arrived in Dollo Ado every day. According to the United Nations, the camp had the highest mortality rate in the world.
On the graveyards of Dollo Ado only a few fresh heaps testify to the fact that the hardship of the refugees sometimes still takes its toll in the camp, though nearly every other child is still undernourished.
The Ethiopian and Kenyan invasion, and the troops of the Transitional Federal government in the Capital Mogadishu — backed by the African Union and the West — have weakened Al Shabaab, but the militia are not defeated yet.
“We do not expect that peace will prevail in Somalia soon. Most refugees will stay in the camps for a long time,” a UN official in Dollo Ado says.
Farah does not care what the UN man says. He continues to sing his song. © INSP / www.streetnewsservice.org