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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."




Sri Lanka: IDPs and Returnees

During Sri Lanka's 20-year civil war more than 1 million people were uprooted from their homes or forced to flee, often repeatedly. Many found shelter in UNHCR-supported Open Relief Centers, in government welfare centers or with relatives and friends.

In February 2002, the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed a cease-fire accord and began a series of talks aimed at negotiating a lasting peace. By late 2003, more than 300,000 internally displaced persons had returned to their often destroyed towns and villages.

In the midst of these returns, UNHCR provided physical and legal protection to war affected civilians – along with financing a range of special projects to provide new temporary shelter, health and sanitation facilities, various community services, and quick and cheap income generation projects.

Sri Lanka: IDPs and Returnees

Tsunami Aftermath in Sri Lanka

Shortly after the tsunami hit Sri Lanka, killing over 30,000 people and displacing nearly 800,000, UNHCR was asked to take a lead role in providing transitional shelter – bridging the gap between emergency tents and the construction of permanent homes. The refugee agency is not normally involved in natural disasters, but lent its support to the effort because of the scale of the devastation and because many of the tsunami-affected people were also displaced by the conflict.

Since the 26 December 2004 tsunami, UNHCR has helped in the coordination and construction of over 55,000 transitional shelters and has directly constructed, through its partners, 4,500 shelters in Jaffna in the north, and Ampara District in the east. These efforts are helping some 20,000 people rebuild their lives.

On 15 November, 2005, UNHCR completed its post-tsunami shelter role and formally handed over responsibility for the shelter sector to the Sri Lankan government. Now, UNHCR is returning its full focus to its pre-tsunami work of providing assistance to people internally displaced by the conflict, and refugees repatriating from India.

Tsunami Aftermath in Sri Lanka

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