From Horror to Hopelessness – The Somali Story

Somali war refugees in a camp on the Kenyan north coast.“You fear for your life. A war is raging all around you. There’s no food, no work, and every day is a struggle to survive.  You see your friends murdered in the streets and your sister raped. The sound of gunfire disturbs your restless attempts to sleep.”

Tonight, whilst relaxing on the beach, I met a young man with a story.  He had been living in a Somali refugee camp, but had ‘escaped’ yesterday and was sleeping on the beach under an upturned boat.

He told me that he had been shot in Somalia and was injured (he had a very pronounced limp). He had fled across the border, through the forest, in hope of safety and a better life in Kenya.

What did he find?  He found himself corralled into a camp with massive food shortages, disease rife, and little support. He is stick thin and his lips are shredded through lack of water. He was a builder in Somalia but now finds himself penniless and with few prospects.

An injured Somali war refugee on the beach at Malindi, Kenya.Yes, he’s away from the horror of his life in Somalia, but how much better is his life now?  He hopes for a Kenyan ID card so he can live and work as a Kenyan. However, this looks unlikely.

The stories he told me of life both in Somalia and in the camp…well, it made me realise that there are some truly dark places in paradise.  Whilst I’m sipping a glass of wine by the pool, a few kilometres away there are people facing a real struggle to survive the day.

My heart hurts. There’s so much suffering in the world and sometimes it gets so close that you can no longer ignore it. Put your fingers in your ears and close your eyes. Turn your back and look at your beautiful surroundings. You can do these things but, out there, there are people who can’t. There are people who can’t escape the darkness.

Of course, who knows the true identity of this man?  Maybe he’s an innocent Somali, shot in the crossfire of a war he played no part in. Then again, maybe he’s an Al-Shabab terrorist, shot by the police fleeing the scene of an atrocity.  I’ll probably never know. I like to believe the best about people because constant suspicion is depressing. However, I’m not naive enough to think everyone tells the truth.

It’s easy to hang around the beach, and the pool, and the bar, and believe you’ve landed in paradise. But if you look a little closer, you realise there are shadows even in the brightest sunshine.

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  1. Wow, powerful story. I used to work for an NGO working with refugees and I travelled to camps in Ethiopia to speak to the refugees – get their stories and take photos. It was heartbreaking. I was there to do a job, but my emotions got the better of me and i was a wreck. The stories were harrowing.

    I hope you make some people question their holiday destination. Nice post

  2. So powerful! ‘there are some truly dark places in paradise’ really hit home with me! It’s something that most people (myself included) don’t consider! Thanks for sharing

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