Friday, July 05, 2013
In Dollow, a small town in Somalia on the
Ethiopian border, weapons are traditionally a standard household item.
War has ravaged this part of the world for decades and generations have
been born into conflict, revenge, fighting and insecurity - a frontline
culture, explains Danish Demining Group's Community Safety leader in the
'People feel they only live when they fight - that is the mentality
here,' explains Abdilarim Mohamed Noor. Being born and raised in Dollow
in South Central Somalia, his battle today is about addressing the
'frontline culture' through his job with Danish Demining Group's Armed
Violent Reduction programme.
'If not making people lay down their arms, then at least we attempt
to teach people to better understand the risks and dangers when there is
a weapon in the house.'
Danish Demining Group's vehicle is crossing through town surfing
potholes and bumpy roads to get to an area where Somalis displaced by
war and drought, have settled. The big four wheel drive and the Danish
Demining Group staff are well-known sights on the outskirts of Dollow.
Dollow and neighboring districts are among the areas of Somalia where
Danish Demining Group runs Community Safety projects, in this case since
2012. For those who are internally displaced and fleeing war and armed
conflict, the little luggage rescued often includes the family's weapon,
says Abdikarim Mohamed Noor.
'It's for protection. People here see it as necessary to be armed, or
as prestige. They even disregard people who don't have a weapon.'
Danish Demining Group's vehicle parks outside a small house, a
one-room shelter made of corrugated iron sheets. An extra cover of
branches with dangerous looking thorns and spikes keeps the house cool
when the sun is burning and has a deterrent effect on anyone trying to
get too close. This is where one of the families involved in the
Community Safety project lives.
Dressed in blue and with a strong face hardened by life and loss,
Halima Noor Warsame sits on a white plastic chair outside the house. She
has lived here since 2001 when the family had to escape fighting
between their clan and another. Halima Noor Warsame is a mother of eight
children, four sons and four daughters. Her firstborn is a son who is
30 years of age, and the youngest a six years old boy born in Dollow
where they live now.
'My husband was part of the fighting and was threatened. We had to
leave everything behind - our animals and our farmland. We went first to
one village, but had to leave from there shortly after. So, we ended up
here in Dollow where safety is good and we felt welcome. We were given a
small piece of land and have built this house. We are not going back
anymore. Now, this is home.'
Halima Noor Warsame is aware that they have
to address the culture of war and weapons, and explains how the fighting
and clan conflicts have left them like many others in Somalia, with
permanent fear and skepticism. People here need to be able to protect
themselves, she tells.
Danish Demining Group's Community Safety project helps mitigate the
risks associated with the weapons and explosive remnants of war found in
the area, as well as enabling the community to manage minor conflicts
before they escalate. This is new to many people in Dollow, including to
Halima Noor Warsame and her family, but it is needed, she says.
Some time back, a conflict near their home ended with Halima's
daughter caught in cross-fire. She survived but spent seven months in
hospital recovering from her injuries.
When Danish Demining Group launched a Community Safety project in
their area, the community here received information and education for
the first time on how to minimize the risks associated with the small
arms and light weapons, mines and explosive remnants of war scattered in
the area and on the former frontline.
'Our community needs to realize the effects from weapons and
explosives. It is essential that we learn about this as individuals, but
also collectively as a society. Otherwise, real change will never
happen,' says Halima Noor Warsame who now shares her knowledge with a
new generation - her grandchildren who sits around the white plastic
chair and listen to the warnings and advice. They already know too well
what weapons look like and what damage they can do. Soon, these children
will reach an age where owning and using a weapon will be within their
Abdikarim Mohamed Noor is hopeful though that a change in attitude
and behavior is underway, but he knows that it is a struggle that will
take time and persistent efforts.
'We have experienced several times that some members of the
communities where we conduct the training, have approached us afterwards
and said that they would rather hand in their weapon. But their concern
is falling victim to conflict and clan issues without being able to
defend themselves, or losing status and prestige if they are unarmed -
and the weapon instead remains in the house.'
Danish Demining Group is a unit within Danish Refugee Council. The
Community Safety project in Somalia is funded byUKaid, SIDA, Ministry of
Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of
Norway, EuropaAid and Danida.