„What makes the desert beautiful […] is that it hides a well somewhere.“ You can always find something beautiful although it may not be obvious.“ Photo: humedica/Hiltrud Ritter
Looking at the positive in life with optimism and becoming aware of the invisible
When sitting with Antoine de Saint Exupéry in the Sahara, under the starry sky, the little prince said: “What makes the desert beautiful […] is that it hides a well somewhere.”
In “The Little Prince”, the well-known book quoted above, the little prince would like to point out that the essential in life – like the beauty of some things, as it is the case here, are often invisible to the eye. In general, this quotation teaches us to look at life with optimism e.g. to be aware of the sheer existence of a well in the desert and learn to appreciate it.
In the dry and rainless area along the Somali-Ethiopian border, such a thought can become important since the beauty of the desert is not visible here. What is visible here is rather depressing.
Still, almost thousand refugees arrive at the camps of Dollo Ado every week, fleeing hunger and violence. Although the situation of some Somali refugees has improved in the course of the past two years, their living conditions are still far from the goal of allowing them a prospect of stability and development.
After a temporary decrease last year, the number of undernourished children is currently increasing again in Melkadida. The last rainy season didn’t bring the desired rain and the number of patients who arrive at the humedica health post requiring medical treatment is not decreasing at all. On the contrary: many patients cover long distances to reach us and tell us about the insufficient medical care in other camps and villages.
As mentioned above, however, the situation has improved considerably since the UN High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR and the Ethiopian ARRA (Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs) decided to provide aid to the refugees in cooperation with humedica and other partners. According to official figures, at the end of 2012, the mortality rate among refugees was lower than one in 10.000 persons per day. One year before, it had been 1.9 deaths per day.
Moreover, there has been an overall decrease in the number of severely undernourished persons from 10 to 18 % last year to less than 10 % now, although the number was slightly rising again recently. Furthermore, the number of women of child-bearing age who suffer from anaemia has fallen significantly thanks to vaccination measures reaching more and more people.
Yet I would not like to refer to these statistical facts as the “beauty” of this region and situation. First of all, such figures must be treated with caution since clinging to statistics is not appropriate and certainly insufficient in the given circumstances, even though they show a positive tendency.
Moreover, these improvements were the result of a dramatic history which cannot be called beautiful by any means.
Yet although the facts cannot be called beautiful, they are essential. They prove the efficiency of our relief efforts and show that, thanks to humanitarian intervention, lives are saved every day in the south of Ethiopia.
What remains is the question what could be called beautiful from the perspective of our teams and the refugees in Melkadida. One thing is certainly the starry sky at night, although it is the most visible object ever. Apart from that, I would emphasize teamwork as one of the “hidden beauties“ behind the aid arriving.
Together with IMC (International Medical Corps), we coordinate the care for and monitoring of undernourished children. AHADA (African Humanitarian Aid and Development Agency) are currently repairing humedica’s electric generator. GOAL carries out distributions of food delivered by humedica in other camps.
In the camp of Hellaweyn, refugees are informed about the possibility that they can receive dental treatment by our humedica dentists the following day. And with our partner JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service) we organise both common social activities and car convoys to make the journeys safer.
Of course, there are also things that go wrong and discussions are certainly allowed. After all, we all try to give help that is important and even indispensable for the people living there. With such a complex work, in such difficult circumstances, it is all the more beautiful to see – or feel – that we all have a common goal and face this challenge together.
Is this cooperation something beautiful in the refugees’ eyes as well? I don’t think so. Yet cooperation is certainly essential, it is the only way to make help efficient. Whether these people are optimistic, as the little prince teaches us to be, is difficult to imagine. Yet, provided that we receive some blessings in the months to come, some wells will fill with rain water again.
If, then, all refugees can survive with natural water again, it will no longer be important who believed in this future and who didn’t. Yet before this is the case, we have to look at the beautiful aspects of our work, carry on with it and do the essential to improve the statistics constantly and save more lives.
And try to give the people of Melkadida the prospect of more beauty in their lives. Please support us in this quest.
humedica e. V.
Reference „Famine Relief Africa“
Account 47 47
Bank code 734 500 00
BIC-/SWIFT-Code: BYLA DE M1 KFB
IBAN: DE39 7345 0000 0000 04747