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Displaced Persons after the Eruption
“This is what they... Read a first-hand account
The heroes of Heal Africa; “The main thing is intact: we have our health.”... Read a first-hand account
The Patmos school is located in the heart of... Read a first-hand account
Despite the decrease of arrivals from Libya, the flow of refugees transiting through Ventimiglia... Read a first-hand account
“Psychological and psychosocial support to... Read a first-hand account
Displaced Persons after the Eruption
“This is what they give me; do you think my baby can eat soap?”
After the eruption of the Nyiragongo Volcano, there were over 40 000 displaced persons, 35 victims, and 3 000 homes destroyed.
The vast majority of the population evacuated the city.
It was in the city of Sake, 25 km from Goma, that we met some of the refugees. Sake is a small town of 57 000 inhabitants, which received 140 000 refugees within a few hours.
The sun was still beating down and it was 4 pm when I arrived in the church courtyard.
I counted over one hundred women and children, with expressionless faces – the atmosphere was tense.
Small groups were formed in the few available shady corners.
Most of the women had left their homes without being able to take anything with them.
Rosette Amisi, a mother, aged 30, lost her home, buried under three metres of lava.
“Muzungu, muzungu help us”
A throng of around twenty people formed around me, imploring. It took me a few seconds to understand what they wanted: to tell me about the pain of having lost everything. Rosette was holding her one-year-old baby in her arms and showing me what the Croix Rouge had just distributed: a bucket, soap, and a yellow container.
“This is what they give me; do you think my baby can eat soap?
It was 7 pm when my neighbour screamed… I left, her house was on fire! I had just enough time to take my four children who were bathing and we fled.” Her eyes were filled with tears, her jaw tightened, she turned her head to hide her emotion. Fortunately there was a lot of support:
“Look at this dress, a stranger gave it to me, as well as my baby’s nappy,” Rosette told me, brandishing the child with outstretched arms".
“We need help. We must rebuild everything, a lifetime gone up in smoke.”
© William Dupuy /AMADESee the project Close
The heroes of Heal Africa; “The main thing is intact: we have our health.”
Gioma Hospital – 22 May 2021 – 7 pm.
Situated 20 km from Goma in RDC, the Nyiragongo volcano erupted. Panic took hold of the population. As in 2002, the lava headed for the city.
The Heal Africa Hospital is located in a neighbourhood threatened by the volcano. The order was given without delay to evacuate the patients and save as much equipment as possible.
The two hundred and fifty staff at the hospital set to work. Some patients fled, still on perfusions or equipped with electrodes, frightened by memories of the last eruption which caused several hundred deaths. The lava had not yet reached the city when several wounded individuals arrived at the hospital. The urgent cases had to be managed while continuing with the evacuation. Then came the terrible news: the lava was already at the gates of the city and the Buhéné neighbourhood would soon be destroyed.
Stress levels rose a notch for Jackson, a 38-year-old nurse: his plot of land is in this neighbourhood, where he lives with his wife and two children.
All night, he unsuccessfully tried to reach his loved ones to make sure they were safe. In the early hours of the morning, after the evacuation from the hospital is complete, he jumped on a motorbike.
All he can do is observe the devastation: “My house was under three metres of lava, all I have left are the clothes on my back and my life.” Fortunately, his wife and children were able to flee in time.
Five employees of Heal Africa suffered the same fate. All of them held the fort: not a single day of rest, not a single complaint. Jackson, sporting a large comforting smile, concludes with these words: “The main thing is intact: we have our health.”
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The Patmos school is located in the heart of the Buhéné neighbourhood. The day after the volcanic eruption, students and teachers find themselves on top of lava that is still smoking.
“It took us several days to find the exact position of our school. It’s a disaster.”
The director of the establishment is inconsolable. Three months from the end-of-year exams, the 263 students of his school find themselves without a building.
Justin is 17 years old. A student in his final year of electronics, he is very worried about the future.
“If I don’t validate my semester, my year is lost. I can’t afford another year. I’ll have to find a job and end my education here, without a degree.”
For most of these kids, school attendance is achieved at the cost of great family sacrifices.See the project Close
Despite the decrease of arrivals from Libya, the flow of refugees transiting through Ventimiglia never stopped: between January and May the general number of people in town remained constantly between 300 and 400, but it increased rapidly between May and June with peaks of 700. The most representative nationalities of refugees in transit remain Sudanese, mostly from Darfur region, and Eritreans. Among the other nationalities, our team registered an increase of people coming from Libya, Chad, Ethiopia, Mali and other Western Sub- Saharan countries. Most of them arrive in Ventimiglia with the intention to reach northern European countries where they hope to reunite with their family and friends or to have a better chance to integrate because of the language and jobs opportunities.
Is a 16 years old boy from Chad, extremely vulnerable due to the abuses and tortures he had to suffer during his stay in a reformatory before and a long detention in Libyan prison after.
Despite he reported to be underage to the Italian police at disembarkation in Sicily, he was registered as ‘adult’ (25 years old) and that’s why – after a short hospitalization in Sicily due to his healthy conditions he soon was transferred into a centre for adults without receiving any proper support, hearing, care or legal assistance. Unable to stand this situation the boy opted to escape from the centre and arrived in Ventimiglia were FARO team met him and promptly assessed his needs.
Thanks to the intervention of the lawyer the age registration was changed, and the boy received an appropriate orientation and assistance.
He was also supplied with the psychological assistance available at the Roja Camp thanks to the mediation service ensured by FARO to him.
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“Psychological and psychosocial support to unaccompanied migrant minors and families with children in Sicily and legal support to those in transit in Ventimiglia”
- Testimonies from February to July -
The Story of K.
K. is a 32-year-old Syrian woman. K. and her two daughters who are 4 and 12 years old, arrived from Lebanon to the House of Culture in Sicily, thanks to the program “Human Corridors.”
The Terre des Hommes team is in charge of caring for the family, since the beginning of their arrival: there are creative and expressive workshops for the youngest children to encourage relations within the structure and to facilitate the integration in the group of the other children, especially at school. The mother asks to begin a path of psychological support with the psychologist and the mediator of TDH.
The woman explains that she escaped from Syria because of the war and because she is of Kurdish origin. She emigrated in Lebanon in 2013, together with her family, the eldest daughter and her ex-husband. She is now separated from her ex-husband since he wanted to force her to interrupt her second pregnancy. K. describes that she suffered during the marriage due to continued violence and abuse from her ex-husband. She is very worried about her parents since they are very old and alone and are still in Lebanon.
During the first few meetings, the woman shows an open attitude and a strong need to tell her story. She narrates what she experienced in a very detailed manner, yet she shows a certain difficulty in getting in touch with her emotional dimension and her painful experiences because she tries to maintain an image of herself as a strong, determined and positive woman.
As the psychological support continues, K. establishes a relationship of trust with her psychologist, and she is able to bring up past memories, first in Syria and then in Lebanon. She is able to come to terms with her fragility and to accept slowly the deeper part of herself that is in need of support and care. She expresses profound sadness and suffering for having never felt support by her family, in particular by her father and brothers who have always had an attitude of contempt towards her and limited her strongly in her freedom and in her choices.
K. is very determined, courageous and has a high capacity for resilience and has managed to adapt quickly and adequately to her new life’s context. The daughters both go to school, while she is learning Italian and volunteering in a kindergarten. She is also a mother particularly devoted, affectionate and caring. Today, her greatest ambition, which has accumulated after years of suffering and oppression, is to work for the defense of women's rights. She has also been influenced thanks to the relationships built with other women who are guests at the House of Culture, who bring with them other dramatic and painful stories: "The freedom and respect of every human being is a fundamental and indispensable value and I want to fight for all the women in the world".
The story of F.
F. is a 27 years old woman who is four months pregnant and comes from the Ivory Coast. In June 2018, she arrived at the Port of Pazzallo with her 2-year-old daughter. At the time of disembarkation, her family is taken into care by the Terre des Hommes team, followed by the vulnerability report implemented by the team of Doctors Without Borders, which reports her desire to terminate her pregnancy. From that moment the woman will be followed until her transfer to a structure in Sicily.
F. appears very tired and worn out from her journey and carries with her the appearance of pain and suffering. The TDH team, immediately following the disembarkation, provides an emotional control aimed at comforting her, offering her listening and support. Her daughter initially appears a bit 'scared and disoriented but later, becomes more relaxed, as she watches the psychologist make a drawing for her.
On the same evening of the disembarkation, the woman is accompanied by the TDH mediator to the hospital for the usual routine checkups; during the ultrasound, she expresses again the wish to stop the pregnancy.
During the first interview in the Hotspot, the woman explains how she left her country of origin in 2017 and has spent about seven months in Libya with her daughter before being able to leave for Italy. Her husband has been in France for a couple of years and works occasionally as a tailor. They have three other children, who she left behind in Ivory Coast with their grandmother. During the meeting, F. explains with anguish her stay in Libya and the group violence she suffered inside a prison after being drugged. During the interview, she reports that she cannot sleep at night and often think about what she had suffered, reiterating repeatedly that she does not want to keep the baby because it is the result of violence. She explains that her husband, who she has not yet had the courage to contact since she arrived in Italy, would never accept her being pregnant with the child of someone else.
It was very important for F. to receive support from the TDH team. They were present in all the early stages of her arrival in Italy, offering her and her child active, authentic and non-judgmental listening and a space to share her suffering and be able to communicate her needs in her own language. In addition, she was presented with the opportunity to give her child up for adoption if, once born, yet she confirmed the desire not to keep it.
The TDH psychologist, before the transfer, hands over to the women her vulnerability report to share with the manager of the new structure, so they will be promptly informed of her condition, vulnerability and severe stress to activate adequate psychological support.
TDH then contacts the Prefecture to know which center F. was transferred to. They discover that the manager of the structure had received the vulnerability report made by TDH and has activated psychological support for the woman.
The story of I.
The day after the disembark, the TDH team listens to the boy while he colors and relaxes. Thanks to the safe, serene, and relaxed environment that TDH had created, the boy confusedly shares that he arrived in Italy with two uncles, but they were on another boat. Later, one of them shows up at the center explaining that he is the brother of the child's mother.
The team, however, notes that the minor is particularly wary and tense and doesn’t express affection towards the alleged uncle in a convincing way and the fact that the man declares himself his uncle a day after the disembarking.
The story of I. appears to be full of inconsistencies and the child continues to be frightened and confused by the many adult figures that revolve around him (first, the fake father, then later, the fake uncle).
Terre des Hommes, therefore decides that, to protect the minor, he should be considered 'unaccompanied'.
A referral is made to the social services, to solicit a transfer to a structure for minors of the same age. In addition, TDH highlights the emotional state of the child who may need psychological support, taking into account the traumatic episodes experienced (removal from the family, traveling at sea and further separation from possible other family ties). In the days after the transfer, Terre des Hommes contacts the structure to verify that everything is fine.
The child is attending school and seems to be serene about his new life. The minor is also followed on a psychological point of view and does not seem to report signs of a condition of vulnerability. Subsequently, the center will send an alert to the TDH team present in the Syracusan territory, in order to carry out a follow up evaluation in the structure.See the project Close