Once upon a time there was a boy named Ghedi. Ghedi has a little brother named Korfa. Ghedi and Korfa are best friends. They live in Mogadishu, in apartment #214, between the Suuqa Bakaaraha and the high school, just across from the Catholic school.
Korfa likes to watch Sesame Street with Ghedi. Their mom and dad teach them that it’s important to learn English. Ghedi is 13, and Sesame Street is easy for him. Korfa is 5. Ghedi helps him with the hard words.
After Sesame Street, Ghedi usually goes down to the quad to hang out with his friends, but today is different. When mom gets home from the store she looks worried. She tells Ghedi and Korfa that there is no food at the store.
Ghedi asks if they can go get food at a different store, but mom says no. All the food is gone. Dad comes home too. Mom and dad say that it’s time to go. There is no food for anyone in the city anymore.
Mom and dad go next door to the Mursals. The Mursals are an older couple. Mom and dad and the Mursals gather what food they have, and some blankets. They carry it downstairs to the truck. Ghedi and Korfa wait in the bed of the truck. Ghedi keeps and eye on the stuff and on Korfa.
Once everything is ready, dad helps the Mursals climb up into the bed of the truck by the kids. He and mom get in the cab and start driving.
They drive down a few blocks until they get on the main highway, Jidka Warshaddaha, to go north to the town of Afgooye. Usually it’s a 45 minute trip, but today the streets are packed with traffic — other trucks and cars, as well as donkey carts, and pedestrians.
Two days later, Ghedi is walking alongside mom and dad. They take turns carrying Korfa. There was no food in Afgooye, and insurgents took their truck.
“‘I thought that making the dangerous trip to Yemen by sea would be better than staying in Afgooye, where gangs plunder and rape. I thought that if I escaped being eaten by sharks, I would certainly have a secure life in Yemen or Saudi Arabia,’ Siidow told UNHCR.” (Source: UNHCR / B. Bannon / February 2007, http://www.flickr.com/photos/unhcr/4130668422/ )
The Mursals are doing their best to keep up, but they’re not young anymore, and the walking takes its toll on them.
They’ve come 40 miles in those two days. They could be making better time, but it’s tough with a five year old. Everyone is going to Dadaab, across the border in Kenya. There’s food in Dadaab, and safety. That leaves 395 miles to go. About three weeks of walking.
Day 3: 379 miles left to go.
Day 4: 363 miles left to go.
Day 5: Mr. Mursal injures his leg and requires assistance to walk, slowing things down considerably. 358 miles left to go.
Day 6: 350 miles left to go.
It reads like a game Oregon Trail, except there’s no buffalo to hunt. As I’m writing this, I find myself trying to decide whether they are going to break an axle or catch cholera.
At this point you may be wondering, “If there’s no food to eat, how do people manage the 400 mile trip? Wouldn’t they all die of exposure and starvation? No one can go three weeks without food or water.”
Yeah, I’ve really got no idea. There must be food available through some channels, but I haven’t been able to find out any details about how the journey actually happens.
So what happens to Ghedi and his family? Do they all reach Dadaab? Or maybe just a few of them? Do the Mursals join Al-Shabaab to become geriatric terrorists? Or do they all just starve and die on the road? I wish I could say. I feel dishonest no matter how I take it. The best answer I’ve found is here. It’s a short clip that gives a little vision into the real people who are enduring this trial. I appreciate it because it doesn’t appear engineered to manipulate your emotions — in other words, it’s not a montage of starving children images. It’s people, intelligent, thoughtful, resourceful, whole human beings.
And, as always, I encourage you to help. UNICEF’s United States Fund is actively engaged in famine relief for Somalia and other stricken nations in the Horn of Africa, and it gets high marks for efficient use of funds. You can donate here on their site: https://secure.unicefusa.org/site/Donation2?df_id=3821&3821.donation=form1 .