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Resources for ages 9-11 in Art

Teaching Tools, 23 April 2007

"I am the first born"

in Sybella Wilkes, One day we had to run!, (London, Evans Brothers, 1994)

"We were among the first Somali refugees to come to Kenya...

One day, some men came to my house. There were not soldiers, they were dressed like you and me. They asked the last-born child who was only four years old, 'Is father in?' When my father heard it was them, he took me into another room and told me, 'These men have come looking for Somali National Movement people. They think I am one of them. This will be the last time I see you. Now you are mother and the father.'

He gave me some papers which he said I should give to my mother so that she could get money from the people in town. Then my father met those men. My father told them, 'I will come with you. I don't want any fighting in front of my children.'

I asked the men, 'Are you taking him for good?' They told me, 'No, no, we are just going to a meeting.' I was the last person in my family to see my father.

The fighting was horrible. The government was looking for people belonging to the rebel group, the Somali National Movement; they were killing people, raping girls. Nobody cared because everybody was trying to save their own lives. We could not trust anybody as they were all scared of us because of father. Three days after they took father, Mama decided that we should leave Hargeisa and go to Kenya. I am the first-born, so I am responsible. We are nine children, three from my aunt who died. My Mama cannot live without me.

The first day of walking was normal for us, except for the sun made our legs feel swollen and awful. By the second day we were walking only at night because during the day the enemy was fighting and there were roadblocks on the road. It was the first time we had ever walked at night. We heard lions roaring, and we saw many snakes and scorpions. We didn't have any problems with the animals though, it was the people we were scared of. Some boys from Hargeisa walked with us. They had money and helped us carry the little children. After three days, they bought two donkeys and the little children sat on the donkeys. Myself, I had to walk because I am the first-born. I used to put my feet in water when we reached a village at the end of the day. I would just fall down."

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Malian refugees in Niger struggle to rebuild their lives

Some 60,000 Malian civilians have found refuge in Niger this year, fleeing fighting in northern Mali as well as political instability in the whole country. Most are hosted in three official camps - Tabareybarey, Mangaize and Abala. A significant number are living in spontaneous settlements. All are located in harsh arid countryside where life is tough despite the assistance provided by UNHCR and other aid agencies.

Children are the most vulnerable group, with some suffering from acute malnutrition. Older children are looking forward to resuming their education in a foreign land. Meanwhile, some 6,000 refugees are living in the Niger capital, Niamey, where many of them look for work so that they can send money back to relatives still in Mali.

Meanwhile, the future remains uncertain. Many people fear that continuing fighting inside Mali could lead to an accelerated exodus of refugees from Mali into neighbouring countries, including Niger.

The following photographs by UNHCR photographer Hélène Caux depict life for the refugees in Tabareybarey and Mangaize camps as well as in Niamey.

Malian refugees in Niger struggle to rebuild their lives

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

Enormous Challenges Faced by Mali's Urban Displaced

Over the past year, the conflict in northern Mali has forced more than 228,000 people to seek refuge in other parts of the country - including some 51,000 who have fled to Bamako, the capital. Without the support networks and other resources they left behind, internally displaced Malians face enormous challenges. High rents in Bamako, for example, compel many of the uprooted to seek shelter in crowded apartments far from the city centre. Limited access to health care, clean water and education makes their situation even more precarious.

Finding work is also incredibly difficult in a new environment where job opportunities typically come through personal or family connections. And so, in suburban neighbourhoods like Sangarébougou, farmers and animal herders now sit idly in unfamiliar apartments, and teachers struggle to find new posts even though local schools are overcrowded.

Hopes of returning home soared in recent weeks as French troops drove the separatists out of population centres like Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu. Yet northern Mali is still far from safe and secure. Until it is, many displaced Malians will struggle on in Bamako.

Enormous Challenges Faced by Mali's Urban Displaced