Ethiopia: It's better to live
31 October 2012

A view of the Melkedida Refugee Camp, in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia where JRS has been working since November 2011. (Stella Ngumuta/JRS)
The drought in 2010 killed all of his animals and left him with only one donkey, which he used to fetch water from the river.
Dollo Ado, Ethiopia 31 October 2012 – Ali* is one of the young refugees at the Melkedida refugee camp, Dollo Ado District of Ethiopia. Back in his home village in Somalia, his family used to have many animals, a farm and a shop. Ali was the source of the family's wealth, as he worked hard. When his mother talks about Ali, she says, "he is a blessing to his family", as he understands all their needs and worries. He used to be adored by the community and small children wanted to be like him. The drought in 2010 killed all of his animals and left him with only one donkey, which he used to fetch water from the river.

One day a tragic accident happened and his two ribs got fractured. After intensive treatment his ribs healed, but Ali couldn't be his former self, his strength and energy weakened. An attack on Ali's village by insurgents left his father badly beaten and becoming weak and hopeless. After this incident, Ali became demoralised, even afraid of going out of his home because of preoccupation with his incapability and the consequent failure. He explains this in his own words saying, if "I try to go out of home I might fall down or die. I am not different from a disabled person as I can't go out and make friends, do business or even socialise".

Attack by insurgents. Even his parents seemed to have the same conviction about his physical status and consequently decided to marry him off to a girl that could take care of him. Fortunately, they found a good girl who was trying to change Ali's situation. Unfortunately, the insurgents came again and demanded the community to join their cause and give away whatever they have regardless of their plea about being destitute. Even though Ali managed to escape from joining the insurgents, his wife, who was with her family for maternity care and the few remaining assets were taken away.

After many long days of worry, frustration and inconvenience, Ali and his family arrived at Yubo transit center in Ethiopia, where they stayed for three weeks. Afterwards, they were transferred to Melkedida refugee camp.

Ali then heard about the JRS psychosocial program through house to house awareness activities and enquires about counselling. At that time, he was still convinced that if he came out of his home, he would fall down.

Assistance by JRS. At the beginning of the counselling sessions, continuous nightmares, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, helplessness, rage and guilt plagued him.

Luckily enough his suicidal tendencies were countered by unconditional love and encouragement from his family. A sense of peace and above all belief in the will of God strengthened his resolve to live.

Ali's irrational perception about his physical and health status frustrated the progress made during counselling sessions. He firmly believed that no matter how sick he was, it is better to die at home than trying to visit a hospital and die on the way. One time he was severely sick for 10 days, the family tried traditional medicine but Ali couldn't get better. After an hour long session he agreed to walk to the clinic with his brother accompanied by the JRS psychosocial team, resting several times before reaching the medical facility where he got help. When the JRS team visited him the following day, his condition had improved.

Since then he has been making amazing progress socially, emotionally and physically. He started repaying the loan he had taken to expand his business. He can sleep peacefully, moves anywhere, joined the Adult literacy program and most importantly he has become a motivation for some resistant client to continue the counseling. .

After the time of accompanying their son Ali to the clinic, his parents always thank JRS for the service. They said, "We don't know an organisation who takes you to the clinic and back home again and visit you at home. Now we have learnt anything can be possible. We believed our son was a disabled person but now he has changed to be a strong businessman, giving hope to our family".

Currently Ali is a different person, his happiness and relief is seen on his face, he takes initiatives to do awareness for his neighborhood about counselling, his dressing style has also changed and is grateful to JRS for helping to regain hope. Ali concludes by saying, "JRS is a family of hope, now I am able to have a better future. If I had died, this would not have been possible. I am now running my business and once again have become a source of inspiration to my family".

Thanks to Allah and JRS that I have seen a brighter day!

The testimony was written by Fikirte Tarekegn, Dollo Ado Counsellor, JRS Ethiopia. In November 2011, JRS started working in Melkadida refugee camp, Dollo Ado, south-eastern Ethiopia to respond to the severe drought crisis in the Horn of Africa. The crisis forced hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees to flee drought and conflict, and cross the border into Ethiopia, as well as surrounding countries. JRS responded to the need by providing psychosocial counselling and literacy services and by organising recreational activities. As of July 2012, the current camp population is more than 41,000 refugees. JRS will have directly supported more than 12,500 refugees by the end of 2012.

* The name has been changed to protect the identity of the person concerned.