28 Jun The Cries We Heard at the Gulf of Eden by Anderson Ezie
The Cries We Heard at the Gulf of Eden
The dry dust from sun beaten earth smelt like gunpowder. Amid the plume of smoke was my father, the one who gave birth to me but he did not speak. His coin robe now had no particular color but the deep crimson of his splattered blood pushed my heart towards my ribs. In the days before, he was the one who led my brother and two sisters into a nearby forest when we heard gunshots far away. Now he was dead, teeth clenched palms open, facing the sky with open eyes that told the almighty creator that he had fought a good fight. My mind moved too fast to ask the whereabouts of my mother and sisters, they could be somewhere, the bushes around, or dead. I walked close to the corpse and looked away wondering why I did not die myself. The ground was upturned to reveal the rough layer underneath. Each block of unearthed soil had the shape of thunder. It was indeed a blast, the kind we have always heard from afar, but now it was here staring no other person but me in the face. Carmels lost their lives to this blast too, not humans alone. Years before these series of endless blasts our country recorded impressive growth in grains and other agricultural products but the same land has now been messed up by the bombings. As I retired from the spot, I saw a man, a woman and some children. Passing hundreds of dead bodies of people with whom I have lived in the same community for years made me empty. I also saw these people alive now as dead. A loud voice wailed from amongst the survivors. With both arms up and quick steps in no particular direction.
“Kama quusan doonno, waan ka adkaan doonnaa kuwa xunxun, xitaa haddii ay micno u tahay nolol dheeraad ah.”
His words were as powerful as his thick Somalian accent and like its meaning, it gave us hope and feeling that we have the power to fight, to continue, and to live. Soon everyone joined in and by the end of the day a few huts stood in the ruins of our community. I spent nights in tears and fear that another blast was imminent. It was possible because it had happened before and the older women and men amongst us warned us to be on the alert always. My father deserved to be buried. He was such a nice man but no one dared to pick a corpse from Al-shabab’s target territory in the face of the risk of becoming a corpse yourself. The old ones told us that it was better to leave the dead than be dead. It was more than a warning, and it sounded over again in my mind. When I later found my mother and a sister, I didn’t remember to ask about my other sister in the burst of excitement.
Things had never been the same from that day. We did all we could to make ends meet, but the seeds we put in the soil did not germinate. The coming of the rain brought great joy for us but after a few months when the leaves were green and fresh as ever, my mother came home crying. I went close to her to ask what had happened but she would not talk to me. I knew it had something to do with our farm and the evergreen ears of the maize plant my mother had laboured all her life to cultivate. She said the locusts were back and they had eaten up all the ears of corn visible on our farm. That day, I knew it was over. The maize farm was all we had and as I lay my head on my mother’s lap holding my sister, the three of us, clenched in sorrowful embrace, we cried. Exasperated by hours in tears, my mother and sister quickly fell asleep but I was still awake. I was thinking about my father but I stopped when I heard the sound of cry from every corner of our neighbourhood. It became clear to me that the locust attacked everyone. It was harder to bear, not because we had not experienced this pestilence in the past. It was hard because we could not move to bigger towns to buy food. A few months back, the government ordered that every Somalian should stay at home to prevent the spread of an unknown virus. We felt we were luckiest because there were no policemen to enforce stay at home orders in our small village in coastal Somalia. Now the food we stored is getting finished, because we have planted most of our seeds, and our only hope is destroyed by swarms of locusts.
I woke up the next morning to utter silence. I thought the people around were mum because they were weak from the sorrows of yesterday. Alas! It was something else. Our room was filled with water flowing from no particular direction as though our house had been built in the middle of a river and the water had forcefully broken the weak clay earth into our dwelling. Everyone was running up the hill and we had to join. We couldn’t take much but the humanitarian workers who came to our rescue assured us that we will get a place to stay and relief materials. I particularly loved the tall man who had a fine English accent and baritone voice, but I could not see his face because he wore a face mask. He distributed masks to everyone mounting the boat and asked us to try not to stay too close to each other as he helped put the mask properly on the face of some old folks. We have lived happily in an IDP camp since that day, observing social distancing learning from humanitarian workers, and getting as much support as we need. We have stopped crying, but our voices reached the Somali Sea, Kenya, Ethiopia, and the Gulf of Eden. We hope to be heard in more places across the globe, to wake up without serious worries about what to eat, or where to put our head. Humanitarian aid is our only hope and for now, at least, our future depends on it.
According to reports from the Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management Agency, 35,600 Somalians have been affected by endless rainfall followed by a tropical cyclone. The COVID-19 crisis has made things even harder for these people and many of them live in severe conditions of food insecurity. Hunger Reduction International is doing its best to reach out to these people during these tough times. Our staff are risking their lives to save other lives because we love humanity. Supporting humanitarian effort to fight hunger is no more difficult than it is to have three course meals daily. It is even easier now that you can reach out to us right here.