Somalia is Not So Far Away {part two} August 31 2011, 0 Comments

What happens when there is a famine? People flee to find food. They go to more populated areas and become labeled as an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) or they flee to cross an international border and become a refugee. They stay in the refugee camps until they are approved to go to a first-world country. Sometimes this can take over 20 years.

Dadaab, located in Northern Kenya just across the border of Southern Somalia, is the world’s largest refugee camp. Dadaab was built with an infrastructure for 90,000 people. Today over 480,000 Somalis are believed to be living in the camp with over 1,000 people crossing the border and entering the camp every day. What would make a mother gather what wares she can carry and take her children to walk hundreds of miles through a hot, treacherous and insecure land? A trek where children die, where water is diseased and scarce, and women expect to be raped.

Food. Food is the answer. The horn of Africa has had repeated cycles of drought, where over the past couple of years during the planting season the rain has failed to come. In countries like Kenya and Ethiopia, International Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have worked with local governments and have been able to avert food crisis situations. However, in Somalia, where al-Shabab (an Islamist militia with links to al-Qaeda) and other armed groups continue to create insecurity, the government and NGOs have not had access to assist the most vulnerable, namely, women, children, elderly and handicapped.

So where are the Somali people who fled in the early 90’s? Some of them are right here in Wheaton. Many of the women who sew at Re:new are from Somalia. Most of them came to America in the early 90’s. They all still have relatives in Somalia.

“I came to America after being in Dadaab for 10 years. I walked from Somalia to Kenya. In the dark place of the trees the lions were waiting for me. They were very close. I put dirt in my baby’s mouth to hush that baby from crying and being eaten. When we crossed the rivers, many people died. I had a baby on my back, and two at my feet and two at my knees and one at my shoulders. One was rumbling inside me. The two at my feet died and the one on my back died. I laid that small one on the road and kept walking. During my journey I was scared. When I crossed the border I was raped. On the other side the camp was big with people. I stayed there for a long many days, many times the year changed and I stayed.”

This is one story of hundreds of refugees in DuPage County.

The Somali women who sew at Re:new are among the most courageous women I know. Their stories are compelling. You should meet them.

I am a mother. I have three children under the age of ten. They are healthy and growing. They have never heard gun-shots or been afraid for their lives. They drink water from our sink... As I write this, my children are hanging onto tree branches swinging their feet high into the air. Their faces are peaceful and free. As I write this, the children of Somalia are hanging on for their lives, shuffling their feet across hardened dirt, their faces dull and lifeless.

We who have an education, who can read, and write and do math, we who have modern-day luxuries, surplus and freedom, we who have the capacity through democracy to be an educated people, we have a responsibility to not only be educated about the happenings of our world but to be an advocate for and speak for those who are dying in Somalia. This quote is overused but highly applicable. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Edmund Burke

“So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves to put shackles upon sleeping men.” Voltaire

Don’t just stay in your own world. Get to know the world. Be informed.
Want to give specifically to a great organization with a field team on the ground in Somalia? Visit www.medair.org for more information.
Want to give locally? Come to Re:new and see what The Renew Project is doing in the lives of Somali women in DuPage County.