East Africa Drought: ‘Somalias are Infinite’

Somalia camp

A camp for internally-displaced persons in Somalia. An estimated 1.5 million Somalis have been displaced within the country due to drought, famine and war. Photo courtesy of a local CRS partner

CRS is working through local partners in Somalia as it begins to recover from a devastating drought. Here is a post from a member of one of them. For security reasons, we cannot identify the blogger or the partner.

Somalias are infinite.

There is the Somalia of Adel, who owns twenty camels with tasseled saddles; he rides across the sand with his cousins and brothers and a cluster of long-horned cattle, rising up and down and up like a fleet of tiny ships.
There is the Somalia of Wa’ail, who slipped away from the village in the cool of early morning and walked two weeks to find a school. Now he can read. “I would write home and tell them,” he says. “But there is no one to answer.”

There is the Somalia of Ken, cut up in small pieces by window frames and wire. He is an aid worker, always under guard and on the watch, but he can escape for a while, sit by the ocean as it gildes at the end of the day and enjoy a rack of buttered shellfish and wine.

My Somalia is confusion. A crowded, labyrinth city with hard jaws and gold rings and peals of laughter from children and women I never see except from the corner of my eye, in a flash of color. I visit the hospitals, the schools and the camps for internally displaced people and stand in line to hand out food, clothes, vouchers for cash, jerry cans, cooking pots, blankets … the need is as endless as the lines. I feel light-headed. And hot. I am thinking of my hotel and wondering if there will be water tonight so I can shower.

Somalia child

CRS supports local partners who provide emergency services in Somali camps. Services include food, water, sanitation, protection and support to start small businesses. Photo courtesy of a local CRS partner

“Older brother?” A small child, maybe ten years old, touches my pants leg tentatively.

“Yes?” I swat at a fly.

“My sister and I want to thank you for these things.” He pointed to the bundle next to him. “Now that we have them, everything will be better.”

I squat down next to him so that our faces are level. “You live here with your sister? Just the two of you?”
“Yes.” He smiles. “We go to school!”

“What about your home?” I ask. “The place you came from. Are you going back?”

He shakes his head vigorously. His eyes are wide. “We’re not going back to that place. That’s a bad place. It’s hungry there, scary, with big noises and …” He stops talking and picks up his bundle. “Thank you again,” he calls over his shoulder.

Amazing, I think. In his Somalia this makeshift camp, with its rows of corrugated iron latrines and only one can of water a day, is a place of possibility and hope.

I go back to my hotel and collapse, sweaty and grimy, on the bed. Can I find hope here too? I wonder. Is there another Somalia to find tomorrow? I fall asleep with my throat parched and dream of tasseled camels laden with ebony and incense, undulating across the desert, as the sand shifts and swirls around them.

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One Response to “East Africa Drought: ‘Somalias are Infinite’”

  1. East Africa Drought: In Somalia, ‘Mending a Crack in the Sky’ | CRS Voices Says:

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