- Conflicts and Disasters
“Water, electricity, light: everything is a daily challenge for us. Without humanitarian aid, we couldn’t survive.”
Luali, 37, was born in the Laâyoune refugee camp, in southern Algeria. Here, for 40 years, Sahrawi people have been waiting for a resolution of the Western Sahara conflict.
“I studied in the refugee camps until I was 12, when I had the opportunity to continue my studies in Cuba [thanks to a grant from the Cuban government]. I lived in Cuba for 15 years, without seeing my family. Our only communication was through occasional letters. Sometimes a whole year would go by without me hearing anything from my family.”
“When I came back to the camps in 2004 I didn’t recognise anyone any more. My sisters didn’t even know me. That is difficult for me to talk about, even now. When I came back I also asked myself: I was born during the war and yet, 23 years later, nothing has changed. What purpose had it all served?”
Luali is a now Spanish teacher in the camp. “One thing that is even more important than humanitarian aid is education. I feel responsible towards my people as a Sahrawi. My contribution as a Spanish teacher is a mere drop in the ocean for all the children who have to stay in these refugee camps.”
“My dream is to be able to go back to Western Sahara. I was born here, in a camp, I have never seen this country that I have always heard people talking about. When I was a child, they told me about the plants and the fish there. I would also love it if the children here had the opportunity to live in a house, go to the beach, live a normal life and have a future. Today the children ask me: “What future? You didn’t have one, did you? We won’t have one either!”.
“But I think that in life, we must never lose hope and faith that tomorrow will be better than yesterday. That is why I will carry on fighting until the end of my days. But after many years, nothing ever happens. It is becoming harder and harder for me to keep saying the same thing to them. 40 years is an important landmark for all Sahrawis. But saying the number of years is one thing; living it is another. Let’s hope that this testimony will go far and will have a profound impact on kind-hearted people everywhere, so that they can help our small community of people who have been deprived of their freedom. Together, we can get there.”
Photo: Tineke D’Haese/Oxfam
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