The Muezzins have been woken up by a grey dawn and the morning breeze has spread up their call to prayer through the dusty alleys. Mogadishu is waking up, still relatively calm, yet slowly becoming more hot and tumultuous. Often when people hear about Mogadishu they immediately think about the movie “Black Hawk Down”. Somali people are reluctant to think about this period of time and although it’s long gone, the civil war continues. The only thing that has changed throughout the years is the type of terror, apart of that, the daily reality is pretty similar to how it was before. People still flee from the war, violence, fight with hunger and their whole existence is reduced to an effort to just make it through the day.
Mogadishu used to be known as the white pearl of the Indian Ocean. Today, this city of nearly two million and a half inhabitants is a shadow of its former self and the period of wars, which has torn through the city, has scarring the inhabitants as well. Filled with ruins, refugee camps, and human suffering it is slowly coming back to normality and starts to dream of its former glory.
Children are an extension of ourselves and because of that it’s difficult to accept that they have become victims of the reality they live in. The exact number of street children living in Mogadishu remains unknown, but it is considered that there are a few thousands of them. Those feral ex-soldiers and orphans who live in groups on the streets, which are connected through the shared addiction of glue fumes, have become the symbol of these cruel times in the city.
Education is imperative for progress. It’s like a vaccine against fundamentalism and indoctrination. Somalis are aware that knowledge and wisdom for future generations are passes to the better world, and that’s why they genuinely fight for a better education of their children. Unfortunately, for the country which is rebuilding after an entire degradation, universal and free education is true a challenge. The vast majority of the schools, apart of those run by NGO’s, are private, and poverty is becoming the biggest barrier both for ordinary people and the country itself.
If one associates a hospital with asylum, a place where they can get help and find relief, Banadir Hospital is a complete contradiction of those terms. It is a place where patients experience terror, panic, suffering and hopelessness. Nevertheless, Somalis used to be able to travel for a few days just to reach this hospital that for many years has been the only hospital in the whole province.
The Veterans Hospital Martino is the history of Somalia in a nutshell. It was first established in 1912 during the colonial times as an Italian military hospital. In the 60s, when Somalia gained independence, it was transformed into a normal hospital, which again became a military one in the 70s during the Somali-Ethiopian conflict. When the statehood of Somalia and Mogadishu was taken over by the warlords, gangs and militias in the 90s, medical personnel escaped leaving the crippled veterans on their own. And those who did not have anywhere to go stayed in this abandoned place for more than twenty years of turmoil until it eventually became their home.
A human can endure many things as long as their brain can cope with the surrounding reality. If that pillar collapses, all the reality will fall to pieces. A continuous war and everyday struggles have turned Mogadishu into a mental illness factory. Ignorance, fear and lack of education make the daily life of mentally ill people terrifying. Their world is limited to two or three meters of a chain, which keeps them attached to trees. There is one man in this city who fights for the lives of these people. Doctor Habeb has released and started treatment for several thousand people as a part of the “Chain free” campaign.