Ethiopia: Hope never dies
14 January 2009

Somali refugees are waiting in front of the JRS office in Addis Ababa, hoping for support. (Peter Balleis SJ/JRS)
"While we were running away from the war, we could not leave her behind."
Addis Ababa, 14 January 2009 – Nimo* is a 46-year-old Somali refugee woman who has lived with her disability for 15 years. She came to the JRS  office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, carried on a stretcher by her own family members. 

The morning she arrived was a busy day with Somali, Congolese and other refugees waiting for JRS to support them as usual. As soon as the family reached the office, they put her on the ground, and stared around with faces full of frustration, helplessness and despair.

We noticed that this was a case that needed special attention. All of her body parts were stretched horizontally as if she was prepared for a coffin. Her body posture seemed unnatural and bizarre. 

Despite the immobility, which was common, she had retained the same position with no evidence of movement for hours, and as a consequence, she had developed pressure areas and bedsores in some parts of her body. 

We could not leave her behind

“We tried to look after her and do the best we can despite the grave situation that we live in,” her younger son, Ibrahim, explained.  “We are very limited financially and can hardly cater for our basic needs,” he added. “The war in Somalia makes it almost impossible to find medical care. While we were running away from the war, we could not leave her behind and decided to head towards Ethiopia where we hoped we would get help, bringing her with us. We believe this is what God wanted us to carry and he can see the strength of our faith through all this pain and suffering.”

He told us that prior to developing this sickness; Nimo gave birth to three children of whom two are girls. While she was delivering the third child, half her body became immobile and some months later, the immobility stretched to her whole body and she had to remain in bed. 

Although there was little hope for an improvement we decided to send her to Yordanos Hospital in Addis Ababa. To our surprise, after 15 years of catatonic body posture, we witnessed how she moved her legs and hands slowly. She looked cheerful and her eyes expressed hope. Even those who took care of her felt like winning over despair and frustration. 

*not her real name