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Reisverslag Mandera: Breaking the Donor & Compassion Fatigue
5 april 2006
Mandera: Breaking the Donor & Compassion Fatigue
Dear family and friends,
I am back!
I have arrived safely this weekend from NE Kenya and even though I am glad to be back and my body is here, my mind and spirit are still lurking about somewhere in Africa. Being in Africa has literally changed my life. Coming from a place where people are dying of hunger and disease and are fighting for water and grains ....and coming back to Holland where there is such an enormous abundance of food and security... the contrast is just too great and at times for me too much to bear. The sounds and sights and especially the suffering there still haunt me. While the people in Holland are more concerned about their dogs and cats, the people of north-eastern Kenya are suffering in a way I can not describe. I have never seen any suffering of this magnitude. People are dying by the second of small infectious diseases and of hunger.
What is even more infuriating is the lack of knowledge of the people here and in the world of this disaster in east Africa. Yet i believe together we can make a difference, if we unite our forces, pool our resources and demand justice and equality, NOW. But in order to do so, one has to want to do that.
That willingness, or rather awareness, compassion and empathy for humanity is sadly lacking. I am aware that there are many good people who are already doing wonderful things, but how do we win the hearts of the majority? How do we bring about change without acknowledging the necessity for one? How can we we let this injustice continue any longer? And what are our individual roles and responsibilities in all of this? I believe that one single person can make a difference; no matter how small, or big.
Knowing that I can make a difference in this world is an immense feeling, a great motivator that helps me decide what I want and what I am willing to exchange for it. I think the key thing in life is establishing priorities and earning success that is based on service to others, not at the expense of others. Such a felling turns moments into catalysts in creating positive, forward-looking, optimistic images in our mind and lives.
Picking up my student life here again remains a challenge. But then I have always believed that challenges are there to be turned into opportunities. Now that I am back and having seen the crisis, I can not act like I don’t know, don’t care. I just cant. I intend to create publicity and awareness of what I have seen and I intend to do so by means of the media. The media plays a big role in bringing about social change and justice. Yet the media in the Netherlands and elsewhere are not covering this injustice adequately.
Soon I hope to organize a photo exhibition to which you all will be invited. Most likely it will be in the Hague municipality as I am having discussions with them. By doing this I want to show the world the human face in the drought, let people know and understand that every single picture has a story to tell, every face a name, a history, a dream like you and me. 5 million people are at risk of loosing their lives to the appalling famine. Many of them babies and children. Children who could have been responsible future leaders, and whose potential could have been harvested. Creating awareness is the least I can do, while keeping in mind the fact that the quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence regardless of their chosen endeavor and that one can do anything as long as one has enthusiasm, commitment, drive and passion for that endeavor.
Before I left for Mandera I came into contact with an organization that stands out from the rest.
Generation For Change and Growth (GCG, www.thegcg.org), as they are called, comprises of young, dedicated and brilliant people who have a great knowledge of the area and people and who already have done so much. The difference with doing an Anthropological research is that the researcher is not limited to an office. I have been able to come down to the level of the people there and grasp their plight and situation. Not only have I been able to do that, but I also have seen potential for change. GCG is also trying very hard to invest in that potential and bring about personalized, concrete and coherent change.
The photo exhibition I am organizing and any other funding that we collect will go directly to GCG and they will make sure that it is put into good and sustainable use. GCG has its headquarters in the US but they have offices in Nairobi and Mandera. GCG and I hope to create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.
Like mother Theresa said..... we are all called upon to do small things..... with great love.
I will let you all know about the exhibition in due course and time.
I welcome all ideas and suggestions.
Sincerely, Sahro M. Ahmed
5 april 2006 19:25 | Door: Esperance
welcome back!!! dear,
how was your journey to Africa?I hoop your really enjoyed yourself, looked many opportunities helping these people hoe are suffering,
take care,and i will talk to you soon.
5 april 2006 20:19 | Door: Sahro,
ik weet het niet eens wat ik moet zeggen, ik ben sprakeloos. ik kan me voorstellen dat nu alles te veel is om te verwerken.
Sterkte en kusjes,
5 april 2006 21:15 | Door: mienenmagda
Eigenlijk zijn we sprakeloos nav. jouw berichtgeving. Er moet inderdaad heel veel gebeuren. Als we je hierbij kunnen steunen,dan graag.
Voorlopig moet er nog heel wat "zakken"bij jou en intussen verheugen wij ons op een WEER--ZIEN!
Kus en knuf m+m
6 april 2006 19:27 | Door: teshome
good that you came back to holland with much to offer.Ur passion and dedication about changing despair to hope would motivate everyone to do the little he,she can do
the problem that you saw in north east kenya also frequently happens to my home land.i therefore share Ur concern.
hope the exhibition will be successful.i look forward to it.
Saron as always I'm very proud of you
12 april 2006 10:36 | Door: jet
Lieve Sahro, Jij zou jij niet zijn als je niet meteen handen en voeten zou geven aan een plan om niet alleen maar te kijken naar en te praten over wat je allemaal hebt gezien en meegemaakt! Probeer je energie goed te verdelen, jij bent zo'n bezige bij! Veel sterkte met acclimatiseren en weer "nederlandse studente" worden.
Dikke knuffel, Jet
14 april 2006 04:38 | Door: Hello Sahro
Your story is a great motivation, educational and at times emotional. I hope the world community realizes that there is an uphill task awaiting all of us and there is not time to wait but move now. Again, thank you for sharing your experience and please continue to do the exceptional work you are doing. We stand by you!!
14 april 2006 10:22 | Door: Aziza
Sahro, thank you for sharing your story with us.
What can we do to help?
Please tell us, let us know.
Your story has touched me in many ways.
God bless you and GCG.
14 april 2006 10:54 | Door: Faisal Hassan
Sahro, i just love your energy and love for humanity.
Count me in sistah!
I just wish we had more of you;s in the world,
14 april 2006 14:30 | Door: Abdirahman
Iam glad you taken this challenge and the overwhelming experience has given more strength.This is so motivating and moving at the same time.you're the Superglue that will bring all of us together for the good of humanity in general.
Plse keep the Good work.
14 april 2006 14:59 | Door: Shukri
Sahro, the pictures are very touching, overwhelming esp the old man.ooh my Lord, how can this happen?
Sahro walaal macaan keep me informed about your wonderfull project.
I am here to help
14 april 2006 15:03 | Door: Abdinasir
Sahro, i propose we work together. I called your phone was not working....call me asap
14 april 2006 15:19 | Door: Aniga
Allow me to join the others by saluting you for having such an amazing humanitarian side and providing much needed information on the gruesome reality in that part of the word; again, thank you and for sure we will all take part of this mission and not wait until it’s far more worse then it already is -:
Keep in mind this “Little minds are subdued by misfortune, but great minds rise above them." > - Washington Irving
Concerned Citizen and Brother:
14 april 2006 15:42 | Door: Mama Shayo
I am in tears.
They never told us/showed us about this disaster before. This is a catastrophe...
I am just in tears,
I will contact you Sahro
14 april 2006 20:55 | Door: Nadifa Osman
It seems like yesterday when I received your first e-mail. I am overwhelmed by the amount of the work you accomplished in three month. The seeds that we planted starts to produce and members of our community were moved by the fact. It shouldn't take this long to realize the cost and the tragedy of the war in our war torn nation; it's magnitude to our fellow sisters and children (sorry, I exclude brother, because I blame them for root cause of this disaster). I hope your work attracts more dedicated young girls who want to carry the message and mark to an end to this history of this human suffering . I hope this would lead us to United Somali Women. Sahro, God bless your hurt and remember I am committed more than Ever. There is a long way ahead of us. I would like to conclude this:
"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." Oliver Wendell Holmes
18 april 2006 13:54 | Door: Dr. A. Yusuf
I want to help, all ways, any way.
I dont know how.
contact me at
21 april 2006 05:16 | Door: Mohamoud-
Hello Sahra, am very happy with wonderful work you are doing for the people of northern kenya human,please don't underestimate it! i know its hard to mobilise resources despite way humanitirian emergency are covered here in kenya and elsewhere, i hope you will win the hearth of many people who care about just world, human suffering.Thank you and God rewards your good deeds.
RACIDA, Mandera Kenya
12 mei 2006 13:11 | Door: Mark Okowa
Its Ok Sahro, Please feel glad that You managed to reach these people and atleast share in their grief, leave alone whatever little help you may have given even in kind. I thank you just for comming to see our brothers and sisters in the North Eastern Kenya.
Please let us work together even for more efforts to better th lives of those who are suffering like the ones you just met in Mandera. I trust that your little efforts will yield great results.
16 mei 2006 11:39 | Door: Salah A. Sheikh
The famine in Northern Kenya: A natural disaster or a tragedy of poor leadership?
The Northern population is dying again. Just like it has been for memorable past. Drought leading to famine is causing starvation and death. The images of emaciated children and starving adults grace the pages of the Kenyan press. The usual actors are now falling over themselves in trying to save people's lives just like they have done in the past. This time new actors like the Kenya Army have been called in to help in the relief effort. Very soon WFP and the famous sacks of corn with the inscription "from the people of the United States" will be seen all over the place. This certainly creates a sense of de javu for those who have been around long enough for the drought cycle to complete.
Very soon it will rain. The starving animals will wake up and the nomads will move on like nothing has happened. They will go on just like zombies without memory, they will remember those were interned with the drought but they will certainly not remember the fact that droughts are here to stay and just like the light of day, there will be drought again and there will be death again and there will be maize again and there will be rain again. This cycle of disaster, death, relief and then rain has been with the North as long as it was there and probably will go on till the doomsday come. The Central question is who is to blame? Is it God for he is the creator of all things? Is it the weather pattern? Is it the animals for they succumb to the vagaries of drought every year or is it the people for they refuse to adapt to their environment?
To be able to answer this question let us first review Northern Kenya as piece of real estate. This area has a semi-arid climate with very hot temperatures and intermittent rainfall which is subject to failure on the average year. This means nothing can actually be grown to maturity since the rainfall cannot support it. The land is too vast for its inhabitants meaning the population is sparse. The main economic activity is keeping of livestock. Obviously all livestock depend on plan matter which also depends on the rain which depends on the weather making the cycle full. Without rain means disaster. The disaster is remedied with a burst of short-term relief once averted every stakeholder seems to go on a memory loss. This is the state of things and since the idea of international relief has been mooted, Northern Kenya has been a beneficiary. Either there is a deliberate effort to ignore the predictable almost constant drought induced disaster or the human race living in this region suffer from a special kind of mental retardation not yet discovered by medical science.
Northern Kenya is not necessarily the worst place on earth in terms of climate and soil. There are tribes that live in the Sahara and Kalahari deserts and they are never subject to mass starvation unless when civil war makes it impossible for them to survive on their own. There has been no civil war in Northern Kenya for a long time and the season of starvation has always been with us. The pattern of weather could be harsher and with global warming the worst is yet to come. This means the current situation is not so bad, as the temperatures rise and water dams and wells dry faster, the occurrence of famine and drought leading will be higher and there will probably be a need to have grains of relief on a permanent standby.
The source of the problem is water which is also a commodity that flows freely in the two main rivers in Northern Kenya and is also plenty in wells and boreholes in many places. Lack of water leads to death almost every year yet water is not really scarce, it is just not accessible to those who need it. If the cause of this tragedy is lack of water for animals and people then God is absolved form blame because He has provided it in sufficient quantities across Northern Kenya. God also has given the people of this region the brain but he left the reasoning part to them. Instinct is supposed to solve the rest. Necessity being the mother of invention, the people could take water to where they need it and use it for the purpose it is meant to serve. They can actually provide this precious commodity every twenty or so kilometres. Grass can grow with irrigation or can be bought as bales of hay for the animals to feed on. The scientists have discovered kinds of plants rich in nutrients for animals that can be irrigated easily with minimum effort. This is a simpleton's reasoning but it is what will eventually be needed to correct this situation. Many will cry that there are no resources to undertake such a huge project of providing water very twenty kilometres on every major road in Northern Kenya. There may be no resources apparently available but the first resource that can bring the rest is mobilization which is what has been lacking. The technical manpower can be sourced if there is sufficient mobilization with honest intentions. The financial resources can also be sourced easily if the determination is there. Such mobilization will need the like of Moses who is God-sent and fearless. It will need a leader who can be able to get as much support from the people of Garissa as the people of Mandera, Ijara or Wajir. It will need a singe minded individual who is not only charismatic but also visionary and who can put together an army of volunteers ready to work on the land and who are driven by a patriotism beyond just country or tribe but patriotism to humanity in itself. They will need to build trenches, artificial rivers and canals, laid large pipes and dig fields. The history of Northern Kenya tells us, that leader is not yet born and until he is born and matures then we need a permanent mission of relief stationed in Northern Kenya to combat the pangs of annual hunger visiting the people of this land.
The starvation and death currently ravaging through Northern Kenya is a stark reminder of the scarcity of leadership, however misguided. It is a manifestation of a situation that has been neglected over the years and of people who are letting predictable environmental and weather factors ruin their lives every year. This is not only a tragedy of immense proportions in itself as leading to mass starvation but a tragedy of poor leadership, lack of focus and utter absence of normal expected human behaviour of planning for the future. Good night.
Salah Abdi sheikh is the Executive Director of Truth Be Told Network, A human rights lobby group advocating for justice for past crimes in North Eastern, Kenya. He currently lives in Kampala, Uganda
19 mei 2006 15:43 | Door: Sahro M. Ahmed (Owner Site)
Dear Salah Abdi sheikh,
How can i contact you please...
3 juli 2006 13:49 | Door: Salah Abdi Sheikh
My contact is firstname.lastname@example.org
18 september 2006 13:49 | Door: Aliyu Mohammed paiko
Never in my life did it ever cross my mind that you went for a programme so touching and thought provoking! Waoow, you really did this? You have more value to me than I ever imagined.
Loke I have said repeatedly, somewhere else arround the world, people are not aware of the injustice, the sufferings and the unequal distribuition of weath arround here in Africa. They do not know what people here go through to get clean water, food or other essentials of life that they take for granted. It takes only the determination of a select few of us, who are priviledged to have a taste of the two worlds, and who do not forget their roots to do what you are now doing. I salute your courage, your determination to make a change no matter how little it may be.
It looks like many people have identified with your noble cause and would want an opportunity to participate. Do you not think a photo exhibition will be too small?
I believe you should think beyond an exhibition and come up with a programme that would actually impact positive4ly on these people.
I am always here if you need a hand, do not ever doubt that. Keep up the good thoughts, good works and for sure, posterity will tell your story in golden light!! To say I am proud of you reduces the essence of your value, you are worth much more!!
23 september 2006 12:27 | Door: Paul, Nairobi
Please help Sahro, just a little help solves double the problems here. Thanks for the vivid coverage of the situation here.
10 januari 2007 06:02 | Door: David
That was truely and deeply touching Sahro....
God bless you for all...
6 juli 2007 20:41 | Door: laila ahmed koshin
hi sis iam very proud of you i always knew that you were very smart hope everything is going the way you want it my email email@example.com LOVE YOU ALWAYZ
5 februari 2008 04:23 | Door: yusufali
10 maart 2008 07:16 | Door: Hassan Maalim
First thanks for doing that, You did a wonderful job. I am in USA but originally from NEP region of Kenya. I will travel to NEP regions in July,08.
Its true the world have done nothing much to heed this suffering so is the GOVT of Kenya. Its our responsibility to solve or try our best.
3 maart 2009 00:31 | Door: Sahro
Dear Hassan Maalim, have you gone to NE Kenya yet...what was it like?