- Conflicts and Disasters
“I was born here, and all my life I have been dependent on humanitarian aid from abroad.”
Fahda, 27, was born in the Laâyoune refugee camp, in southern Algeria. For 40 years now, Sahrawis, like Fahda and her family, have been living in refugee camps in this area.
“In this inhospitable desert, there are no plants or animal life. The summer is very hot and the winter very cold, and I was living in these conditions without adequate clothes, shoes or health services. I didn’t have any toys either. When there was a bit of rain that formed a puddle, everyone rushed to see it: we dreamed about seeing the sea.”
“I remember my mother used to bend over backwards to make me happy. I remember one time when she found a bone, she covered it in a bit of material and drew a face on it, and made it into a doll that she gave to me. I remember I was so happy and so proud of that new doll. I also remember that when I was hungry, she used to say to me: “Be patient, my little girl. I’m going to give you everything you want”. So I waited. Until I ended up falling asleep until the next morning. She didn’t say that to be dishonest or to trick me; we just didn’t have the means. That is just a small example of everything we have suffered and everything that the Sahrawi children are still suffering.”
“However, thanks to God and to the efforts of humanitarian NGOs and the Sahrawi authorities [who run the camps], we have been fortunate enough to have several schools in the camps: education and culture are so important in the life of people.”
Fahda was able to go to University in Algeria. She now has a degree in political sciences, specialising in international relations. ”It was our cause that influenced my choice of specialisation, because I wanted to be able to better defend it. However, whether you are educated or not, you have no prospects when you go back to the refugee camps, and no work.
“Despite everything, even if we stay here for 100 years, we still hope to set foot in our free country and run it ourselves. Even though we have been here for years and we think of this desert a bit like a second home, we still have this sensation of not being at home. 40 years is too long in exile.”
Photo: Tineke D’Haese/Oxfam
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