Home is best, as the saying goes.
But what happens if you don’t have a place that you can call home?
Sadly, this is the dilemma facing millions of people around the world who cannot say that they are going home.
80 million forcibly displaced people to be precise.
These people have been uprooted from their homes, most often with cruel physical, emotional and or sexual violence, having fled for their dear lives.
Many have been separated from their families or have watched loved ones being killed.
I have worked with displaced people on and off for around 20 years now, and their circumstances are always heart-breaking. Many have had their careers abruptly ended, with the long years spent gaining their skills seemingly going down the drain.
Others have seen their sources of livelihoods suddenly broken down or destroyed.
I have met teachers, doctors, engineers, farmers and business people living in refugee camps where they have no opportunity to practice their skills.
Many had good careers with the future ahead once looking bright. They had solid plans for their families, including taking their children to good schools and seeing them graduate from university.
Such plans have since been derailed either by conflict or natural disaster.
During my recent visit to the Um-Rakuba Refugee Camp in Gedarif State (Sudan) in February 2021, Sudan, I met some refugees and discovered their stories.
They were heartbreakingly sad.
In Sudan, Islamic Relief has been providing lifesaving support since November 2020 to refugees who have fled the conflict in their home country of Ethiopia.
These are the stories of some of the refugees who fled for their lives.
Forced to flee: Meet Mulu
One of the people I met was Mulu from Ethiopia. She was making injera (traditional Ethiopian flatbread) at her tent in the Um-Rakuba.
She has faced many challenges as a woman living with a disability at the camp. For instance, she has difficulty accessing the latrines on site.
Mulu’s husband had to carry her across the border when they fled. She is sad that they are now in a similar situation to their forefathers who were refugees many years back.
Mulu has to bear physical and psychological pain. She does not know the whereabouts of her mother and siblings or even if they are alive.
Here in Sudan, Mulu received cooking pots, spoons, a boiler, plates, spoons and a hygiene kit from Islamic Relief. She was overjoyed when the items were delivered right up to her tent by Islamic Relief staff.
Muez: Longing for home
I also found Muez near a makeshift tea kiosk beside a busy road at the camp. He is just 21 years old and has a wife and a two-year-old son.
When Muez fled Ethiopia, he got separated from his young wife and was resigned to the fact that he may never see her again. He was overjoyed to be reunited with his wife at Um-Rakuba Refugee Camp.
Muez tells me that he is frustrated that he cannot find a job and provide for his young family. He consoles himself by the fact that he is alive, and many are not.
Muez simply wants the conflict in his country to end so that he can go home.
And of course, millions more want exactly the same thing: to be able to go home to the place they once knew and loved.
It’s these stories that we must listen to.
These are real stories of real people. They have dreams and aspirations. They are not just statistics on paper.
As I leave Um-Rakuba Refugee Camp, I cannot help reflecting on how lucky I am to have a home to return to. I appreciate this fact and do not take it for granted.
Nobody chooses to be a refugee, but circumstances force them.
Anybody can be a refugee – you and I included.
At Islamic Relief, we support thousands of refugees like Mulu all over the globe in host countries such as Turkey, Sudan, Bangladesh and across Europe. Find out more today about our work in Sudan.
Donate now to support our lifesaving work.