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Somalia’s Refugees: In Their Own Words

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Hassen – Refugee from Somalia living in Ethiopia
After gunfire during a rebel attack in Somalia left Hassen bound to a wheelchair for life, he knew he could not let his children grow up amidst the brutal violence.

Hassen remembers the exact day he and his family fled Mogadishu and the harrowing, eight-day journey to reach refugee camps in the Somali Region in Ethiopia. It was hard for them to leave everything behind and start a new life, but the conflict in Somalia gave them no choice.

Hassen has now been living in Bokolmanyo Refugee Camp in Ethiopia for over three years with his wife and five children. He is grateful that his family is in a safer place but living in the camp has not always been easy for him. Due to his disability, Hassen faces many challenges and is vulnerable to disease and injury – particularly because he cannot access the communal latrines and hand washing facilities in a wheelchair.

International Medical Corps recognizes the challenges faced by people with disabilities and works to address their needs worldwide. In March 2012, our teams began implementing sanitation and hygiene programs in Bokolmanyo camp through which we support 40,000 men, women and children – including those with disabilities. Through these programs, International Medical Corps not only ensures a significant reduction in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) related diseases but also reaches people with disabilities by providing them with appropriate sanitation facilities. Hassen now has access to his own adapted latrine and hand washing facility, which he notes makes a real difference in his life.
“Previously, it was impossible for me to use a normal latrine. I had to use a potty and bathe inside my home by using washing basins – without assistance I was unable to wash myself or go to the toilet. Before International Medical Corps implemented this program, different agencies worked on latrine construction, but no one took into account the needs of disabled people,” says Hassen. “Today, I am the owner of a comfortable latrine. The door is wide enough to enter, there is enough space for the wheelchair to move around, the toilet seat is high enough and I can easily sit on it. There is also a special seat for the bath in the same facility.”
Hassen notes that he no longer needs assistance with bathing or using the bathroom and gained some independence. “While using these facilities, I am gaining respect in my home and at the same time my confidence is increasing,” he says.
Hassen would like others to know that people with disabilities can be independent and productive if given enough encouragement and support. At home in Somalia, Hassen worked as a trader. Today, he is not only working as a volunteer for a local non-governmental organization, but also as Chairman of people with disabilities in the camp.
“I am worried about those people who are not as lucky as I am. I hope that, like International Medical Corps, other organizations will consider the needs of people with disabilities who are in the same position as I am,” says Hassen.

Why is World Refugee Day important?
According to the UN Refugee Agency there are more than 45.2 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) worldwide. Often uprooted with little or no warning, these refugees and IDPs are forced to flee danger with little more than the clothes on their backs. Unable to return home, their only alternative is to rebuild their lives in makeshift camps or overcrowded urban areas where food, clean water and medicine are often scarce. Forced to start again in such harsh conditions with few possessions, little money and no job leave refugees susceptible to poverty, disease and malnutrition.
In our commitment to serve the most vulnerable, International Medical Corps protects the health and well-being of some of the world’s largest IDP, refugee, and host populations. By sharing this page with your friends and family or making a contribution to our programs, you enable us to continue our work in the most difficult environments to ensure the displaced have what they need to survive and rebuild their lives.

Where does International Medical Corps work?
International Medical Corps has provided its lifesaving care in nearly 70 countries worldwide. Over the years, International Medical Corps has responded to the world’s most devastating man-made and natural disasters, in countries like Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, Japan, Haiti, South Sudan and Iraq.

Who is International Medical Corps?
International Medical Corps is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering by delivering humanitarian assistance, healthcare and training to communities affected by disasters, conflict and poverty. Established in 1984 by volunteer doctors and nurses, International Medical improves the quality of life by quickly responding to emergencies and then staying on the ground to teach lifesaving skills to doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers in underserved communities worldwide. In 2012 alone, we provided more than 3 million patient consultations, enrolled more than 400,000 people in nutrition programs and distributed close to 60,000 insecticide-treated mosquito nets.



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