Durban – Appreciate what you have.
This is one of the lessons learnt by members of the Al Imdaad Foundation who went on a humanitarian mission to famine- and war-torn Somalia this month.
The foundation has been involved in relief efforts since last month.
Muhammed Sader was part of the effort. The 33-year-old from Estcourt, who has been with the foundation for seven years, said they had immediately gained a sense of the situation when they landed in the capital, Mogadishu.
He described the city’s dusty roads and the tarred routes riddled with potholes.
There is a lack of infrastructure. The country, which is in the grip of a civil war, is also a security risk to people who go there.
“While in Mogadishu, I had to have an armed guard,” he said.
He went to Baidoa, about 240km from Mogadishu. He travelled in a two-car convoy with armed guards.
Sader said when they arrived near the foundation’s hospital in the city, they saw a so-called “camp” of about 20000 people.
The camp was filled with tents made of scrap material designed to only hold about two to three people, but accommodating up to eight. “It was heart-wrenching,” Sader said.
Most of the people at the camp were from the surrounding areas. They had lost livestock and crops and had gone to Baidoa in the hope of finding something better there.
“Some children had mittens on, so that they wouldn’t dig their eyes out.”
The children had been starving for so long that they had become delirious and could harm themselves.
“You sometimes have to excuse yourself to cry by yourself. You don’t want to break down in front of others,” Sader said.
The experience taught the father of two to appreciate what he has.
“We don’t realise what we have. We need to be thankful.”
He said the experience had made him a better person.
“I would like to go back to do whatever I can to give people respite from their suffering,” he said.
The foundation helps by providing hampers of rice, flour, dates and oil, which form part of the staple diet for the locals.
Fellow relief agent Khizar Belim said: “I have been to the border regions of Syria and Turkey for relief work for Syrian refugees. I have also been to areas of impoverished rural Sri Lanka in the aftermath of floods.
“The situation in Somalia, however, has been the worst I have witnessed.” The Mooi River resident said he found it painful seeing malnourished children at the internally displaced persons hospital funded by Unicef.