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Somalia: Mogadishu Refugee Camp

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Mogadishu Refugee Camp | Somalia | Africa

[Visited: December 2014]

After visiting a camel farm, where we have some fresh camel milk (which is not as bad as I was afraid it would be), we stop by one of the many refugee camps that can still be found on the outskirts of Mogadishu. The lasting effects of the extended war that has plagued Somalia for decades is not only palpable in the ruins still visible all over the city. While Mogadishu is currently living in a more peaceful time, there are still parts in the country where Al Shabaab rules. The inhabitants of those regions have escaped their homes, trying to survive; they considered Mogadishu a safe haven. As we enter the camp, a group of young boys is sitting on the ground, in the morning sun. It is a quranic school: the boys have narrow wooden slates, on which they have written verses of the holy Islamic book, so they can learn them by heart. Inside, we find a small group of girls in veils. The teacher explains us a little bit about the school; it is the only type of education these kids will receive. The boys are actually on their way to have breakfast, but a few of them are invited to stand up, step forward, and recite what they have just learned, in a soft voice.

Picture of Mogadishu Refugee Camp (Somalia): View of the refugee camp with make-shift tents

Most of these kids were probably born in this camp, and they can only hope that one day, they will be able to move to a real house, in the environment where their parents grew up, and have a decent life with a future. For now, there is not even money to provide for a shelter, and the boys have to study under the scorching sun. Under the guidance of the two coordinators of the camp, we now walk further inside. One makeshift tent after the other, with materials that will not be able to protect against the rain that will come in a few months. Every tent belongs to one family, and I am invited to look into some of them. People sleep on the floor without even a mattress, chicken roam freely through the tent, there is no privacy, no bathroom, no water, and of course, no electricity - not that these people would have the money to buy anything that needs electricity. Some of the refugees speak up, explain their story, while one guy quietly sits in front of a tent with a broken leg, provisorily tied together by rags of clothes. He had a car accident while begging on the street.

Picture of Mogadishu Refugee Camp (Somalia): Refugee girl in Quranic school dressed in blue

There are a few small shops in the camp, and just when I think that at least some refugees manage to make something of a living here, it turns out these belong to undertaking inhabitants of Mogadishu. The only way to make money is to do simple work in the city, like cleaning, or washing clothes. While we walk to a neighbouring camp, which just had a fire the day before that ravaged several tents and destroyed the few possessions people had, tears come to my eyes. These people have not been driven away from their homes by a major natural disaster, they have done nothing wrong; they were forced from their lands because of a lasting civil war. Apart from the human tragedy that is all around us, I feel utterly helpless. The first, and obvious, human reaction is to help, but seeing and hearing about around 600 families living in dire circumstances, without anyone providing for a real solution - what can I do? When we are at a small clinic, which focuses on women and children, where two doctors and eight nurses work as volunteers, I discuss it with the guide. I propose to ask which medicines they need most urgently, to find out that they have access to free medicine from a nearby hospital. So we decide to raise some money and buy basic food stuffs, and my guide quickly sends a message to his friends in search of donations. It will again be temporary help and not a structural solution, but at least some of the refugees will have something to eat, and will know that some people care. In the long run, though, we can only hope that lasting peace will finally bring these people the chance to live a normal, decent life.

Picture of Mogadishu Refugee Camp (Somalia): Refugees at their tents in the camp
Picture of Mogadishu Refugee Camp (Somalia): Boys in the refugee camp studying the Quran
Picture of Mogadishu Refugee Camp (Somalia): Refugees from around the country live in these tents for years, waiting for the situation to improve
Picture of Mogadishu Refugee Camp (Somalia): Boy with wooden slate used to rehearse verses from the Quran
Picture of Mogadishu Refugee Camp (Somalia): Refugees explaining their lives to the visitor under a tree in the refugee camp
Picture of Mogadishu Refugee Camp (Somalia): Inside view of one of the tents of refugees
Picture of Mogadishu Refugee Camp (Somalia): Clinic in refugee camp, staffed by volunteers, and focused on women and children
Picture of Mogadishu Refugee Camp (Somalia): Shop in refugee camp
Picture of Mogadishu Refugee Camp (Somalia): Refugees live in these make-shift tents for years on end
Picture of Mogadishu Refugee Camp (Somalia): Man with broken leg in front of a tent, waiting for his leg to heal
Picture of Mogadishu Refugee Camp (Somalia): Refugees accompanying the guards on a walk through the camp

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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