We Are Here, Mogadishu

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A young Somali orphan who has lost his father during the civil war tells us about the conditions under which he and other people are living; war, poverty and diseases have devastated the country.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

Still on Screen: Since 1977, the civil war has become part of people's lives in Somalia.

Narration: I want to open my eyes and see that it is not a dream. Years ago, when my father had not married my mother yet, he used to fish in a faraway town. He always told me about a sea in which they found big fish; about the ships that would be lost for months at the sea. He used to say that the sea, with is infinite horizon, separates you from the rest of the world. When my father told me those stories, I’d close my eyes and visit that sea in my dreams. The sea was calm and quiet, and the seagulls flew and soared above the ships. No sound was heard over there. There were only water and sunshine and the infinite horizon. Then, when I opened my eyes, I’d find myself in the same place, in the village.

But it was different that time. I had fallen asleep in the back of my father’s old cart. Al-Shabab raided our village and killed my father and the other men in our village two days before. My mother put us into the cart and we ran away as fast as possible. I was really frightened. I was holding on tightly to my mother’s hand. When I opened my eyes, I saw that we were approaching a city. I asked my mother, “Where is this place?” My mother replied, “Mogadishu.” I had heard from my mother that Mogadishu had a large sea.

When we arrived in Mogadishu, several strangers took us to a protected area guarded by soldiers. I realized that it was a camp. After we passed through a lot of tents, they showed us an empty spot and said, “You can put up a tent here.” During the first few days, we thought our village would be set free very soon and we all could go back home. But after some time we realized that we had to stay on in Mogadishu for the foreseeable future.

After my father’s death, my mother was really lonely. And our house had become a small tent.

During the years that we have been here, everything has changed. Nothing is the way it used to be. My mother and sisters have got used to living in the camp. But I’m still upset and really wish to leave. Playing with clay is my only hobby here. My friends and I sit outside the tents in the evening and build toys.

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

Narration: Abed is my best friend. We met here, in the camp. We’re always together. But we also have some responsibilities. In order to get water, we have to take our water containers and walk a long distance to the camp’s tap water several times a day. We wait for an hour in the queue for our turn. I go out the tent every morning to get water. My sisters help my mother do the chores in the tent. My mother is always careful to make sure we don’t run out of food supplies. After we ran out of food several times, we all learned how to save food supplies. One or two times a month, food trucks from other countries come here. When people hear the news of the trucks' arrival, they quickly run towards the main square of the camp, making a ruckus. Everyone is worried about their own supplies.

Here, you need to fight for food. Sometimes, there's a shortage of food supplies, which leads to clashes and strife among the camp residents. Quarrels and arguments are common incidents around here. Such things make our lives more exciting. Distributing the food supplies lasts till nightfall, after which people gradually return to their tents. And the camp becomes calm again.

You can hear gunshots in Mogadishu during the night. They say they have aimed at scaring the immigrants who are trying to steal or rape. I close my eyes and cover my ears, so that I don't think about anything and can go to sleep.

My mother says before the start of the civil war, Mogadishu was one of the most beautiful seaside cities in Africa. Before my father returned to his village and got married, he used to fish in this ocean; the Indian Ocean. Before my father died, he promised to take me to the sea one day. But he could not keep his promise. Abed always asks me, "Why do you love the sea so much?"

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

Narration: There's a big problem in going to the sea. The soldiers. They don't allow us to leave the camp. Every year, many children in Somalia are kidnapped by terrorist and criminal groups, being used as military forces in the war. Soldiers are serious people. They always carry guns. Here, everyone has a weapon. Abed says he wants to become a soldier, and I tell him, "Well, we have our own soldiers and weapons." We make soldiers and military vehicles with clay. This is our military, and their job is to protect us. We want to release people from here with the help of these soldiers and weapons.

But my mother says, "You should only concentrate on studying." This is the only thing that will save us.

Abed and I go to school every day. This is the only way of gaining knowledge in the camp. Going to school was very difficult for me at the beginning. I didn't like studying. I wanted to go to the sea instead of school. But I learned many things I didn't know at school. I learned that the Earth was round. No matter where you start from, you can always return to the same point, to where you come from, to your home. I remember what my father said about the sea's infinite horizon. I always think about the people who live on the other side of the sea.

I haven't been feeling OK for some time now. I burn with fever at night and my stomach hurts. I throw up a lot. The camp's doctor says a virus is in my body; it's caused by contamination. It's a virus that can be dangerous to everyone. He gave me some medicine, but it didn’t improve my condition. I think my health is deteriorating day by day.

Waiting is the only thing you can do in this camp, behind these walls, in the middle of these tents. They say 10 thousand people live here. People who live here cannot do anything. Gradually, they all forget that they had a farm and cattle once, lived in a village, and their houses were not made of tents.

TIME CODE: 15:12_20:00

Narration: Here, children are born and grow up. But no one pays attention to them. People out there do not think of us much either. This is not a camp anymore. It’s a neighborhood in Mogadishu. But I don’t want to stay here. I have to go beyond these walls. There is a place behind these walls that I really wish to see. A place I always see in my dreams. Abed always asks me, "Why do you love the sea so much?"

Now my sickness has become a new concern for me. Many children die here because of sickness. The doctor says I might need to be hospitalized. In Somalia, a tribe without a man is a dead tribe. After my father and brother, my family have pinned all their hope on me to survive and grow up.

My father used to say, "Sea water can strengthen a man's body." Now the sea is my only hope. I want to go to sleep and dream of the sea. I only want to hear the sound of the sea. I want to open my eyes and see that it is not a dream. I woke up this morning with my father's voice. But he was not there. I still can't believe it. Some of the people in the Red Cross who are my friends came to take us to the sea. When I saw myself in the Red Cross car, I realized that it was not a dream. This was the long away sea shore that my father used to describe. Where in the world does this sea stretch to? Now I realize why no one can see us from the other side of the sea.

Abed used to ask me, "Why do you love the sea so much?"

I answered, "As soon as I reach the shore, I'm going to run and shout out 'Hey! We are here! Mogadishu!'"

According to the United Nations World Food Program, 1.6 million people in Somalia are in immediate need of food, and 24 percent of children under the age of 5 suffer from malnutrition.

Only 21 percent of the people in Somalia have access to healthy and fresh water.

In Somalia, 10 percent of children die at birth, and 25 percent of those who survive die before the age of five because of malnutrition or illness.

   

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