Ramadan in Somalia with Islamic Relief Canada’s Medical Team
It was just the other day I realized that there wasn’t really any crying. There was unbelievable suffering but no real crying… I know it was the extreme state of exhaustion and not having any energy left that explains it. The situation in Mogadishu is a nightmare and best and unimaginable at worst.
Ramadhan for me this year started during a layover in Rome, en route to Nairobi with the final destination being Mogadishu, Somalia. We had no idea what the plans were, no specific expectations except knowing that what we would see and experience would most undoubtedly change us in some fundamental way… But what we lived there, no words can do justice to. May Allah Azawajal ease all the suffering and heartache.
Fasting for us here in the West can never really be considered hard, I mean maybe there are days where it is little challenging but it cannot compare to actually dying of hunger… and this is what I saw. Five year old children who could not support their own weight and would simply flop to the ground, 2 year old children weighing 3kg… the weight of a newborn child! Children in unbelievable states of malnutrition, things I’d only seen in text books. Subhanallah… We don’t know the blessings we have.
We landed in Mogadishu on a one runway airport, off to the side was a derelict relic of a plane long since crashed and pillaged. No one had thought to remove it, then again who would have removed it. This is a place which has seen such turmoil over the past 2 decades, such violence and sadness and today’s famine is a culmination of so many factors all rolled into one… and who suffers the most? The one who walk 10,15,20 days to come for help, burying along the way, or in some cases leaving behind the little ones too weak to continue the journey. Yes, I said leaving behind babies, with a prayer that someone coming along from behind would pick them up, because no one in their group had strength enough to carry them forward. Ya Rabi, forgive us our neglect for sitting comfortably while so many suffer in unimaginable ways.
We had traveled with Islamic Relief Canada and met up with the heads of Islamic Relief USA as well Islamic Relief World and Islamic Relief Africa, of us all there was really only one person who had gone into Mogadishu in the past few weeks, for the rest of us it was something nothing could prepare us for. After leaving the airport we went for a quick little tour of what Islamic Relief (IR) was doing in Mogadishu. Actually IR is focused more in the southern areas of Somalia, areas which are not accessible to the vast majority of Aid agencies/NGOs due to the political powers which control those lands… a completely different story in of itself. The second place we went to was a day clinic being run by some local physicians at one of the Internally Displaced Camps (IDP camps)… our medical team consisted of myself, a podiatric doc and a nurse. The plan had been to only visit, but when saw the line of sick kids we couldn’t just leave. So we joined in with the local docs and starting seeing the people.
One of the first people who came to me was a father with his little boy (3 or 4 years old its my own shortcoming that I can’t even remember his age now). The father told me the boy had measles, and I thought to myself how? Of course I had completely neglected to remember that there is no vaccination program in Somalia and that measles are endemic. So the father continued his history and told me that this is his 4th child, that the other 3 had been ill in a similar way and after they had reached a similar state as his current child, he had buried all three, one by one during the past week…both he and I knew that there was nothing more to do. This was the one of the first people I saw and the stories only got sadder. Person after person, heartbreaking story after story, this is all that there was. The largest hospital in the city is run by 3 docs and 6 interns, no one really gets paid. It is something they do in order to try and help their brothers and sisters. It is a crisis beyond belief.
There are dozens of tales I could share, but the reality is that no matter what I say, no matter what we see on screens or read in papers there is nothing which can truly capture the magnitude of what is happening. By the Mercy of Allah Ta’ala, I have been around the world on medical missions similar to this but I can truly say I have NEVER before seen suffering, especially that of children, in the way I saw it in Mogadishu. From any other journey I have taken, I usually have at least one heart warming story, from Mogadishu I bring nothing back but heartache and tales of misery.
I have 2 little boys and our concern is not how to feed them, but rather how to feed them the BEST of things. What makes the little boys and girls in Somalia any different? They are also my children. So how can I sit here and not remember the Infinite Blessings of Allah Ta’ala and not give thanks for all that we have? So for those who do end up reading this, please do one thing, pray for them and us, pray that Allah Ta’ala Showers them in Rains of Mercy both Literally and Metaphysically and pray that Allah Ta’ala Forgives us and doesn’t take us to task. And for those who can donate, please do so… In Canada we currently have dollar for dollar matching with the Federal government, so every dollar donated is matched by a dollar by the government. Please check out the website there are some videos of IR‘s work in Somalia as well as around the world. Please remember me, my family and the ummah in your duas.