East Africa Drought: In Somalia, ‘Mending a Crack in the Sky’

Somalia camp

A camp for internally-displaced persons in Somalia. 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. The first post is here.

“Why are they shooting?” I screech and dive to the floor. The other men are laughing; this is my first trip to Mogadishu.

“Oh my brother!” the driver shouts over the machine gun clatter, “There is a traffic jam. This way is more effective than a horn.”

Okay, I tell myself; that kind of makes sense. “What happens when the bullets fall back down from the sky?”

The driver laughs. “The bullets don’t go down! They just go up. Up and up. Then God takes them out through a hole in the sky.”

Oh, right. I feel much better now. The traffic clears; I stay on the car floor. We arrive at the health center that CRS is supporting and are ushered inside.

“Come quickly,” the nurse says as she clears a path amid the crowds milling and squatting by the doors and under the eaves, “Outside is not safe.”

“What about all of them?” I pointed to those we were passing. Some patients were lying down, too weak to brush the flies and ants from their skin. The sun was grueling. “Is it safe for them?”

“No of course not. But they have great need.”

Inside there were people everywhere – most of them women holding infants. The children lay motionless within their mothers arms, big heads on tiny bodies, as wrinkled and puckered as sticks.

“More than half our patients are malnourished children,” the nurse explained. “We stabilize them, feed them … but more come every day. And when the rains start, there will be cholera and respiratory infections too. This is our maternity ward.”

Somalia group

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

We stopped in the doorway. Sunlight slanted in through a row of windows. A dozen young mothers lay propped up on beds and mattresses, nursing or dozing. They covered quickly at the sight of me. One woman looked up and smiled broadly. I walked in, greeted her and pinched her new babies’ chubby feet.

“He is handsome.”

“Yes,” she gushed. “And so lucky. I almost lost him.”

“He was ill?”

“No.” She clutched him closer. “He was turned. I fought to bear him for five days. I lost blood, I lost consciousness, they didn’t think I would live. After the third day we started for this hospital. It is 90 kilometers from where we live and it took two days to arrive, but we had no choice.”

“Why no choice?”

“This is the only free hospital!” she cried. “If not for this hospital, I would have died. The others ask $2,000 for Caesarian section. Oh, my dear! Even if they asked for $50, I could not have paid it. I would have paid with my life.” She cradled her son. “And with his.”

On my way home I asked the driver, “What will happen to Somalia?”

“We will be okay,” he said firmly, his eyes on the road as we swerved to avoid a collision (but thankfully not a bomb). “You know we have a famous Somali proverb: If people come together, they can even mend a crack in the sky. So we will come together and everything will be alright.”

“A crack like the one the bullets fall into?” I asked.

The driver howled with laughter and slapped my knee. “Oh, my brother! You are very funny. But you have a lot to learn.”

“Yes,” I replied grimly, “I do.”

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