Away From Home


By Marie-Eve Bertrand

Away From Home image 1
Swala, in Djenne region.A group of women waiting for the food distribution.Photo credit: © 2012 CARE/Marie-Eve Bertrand

They plundered her village. They killed people, beginning with men in uniform. Soldiers, federal officials, prison guards. To sow terror, they freed prisoners. "My husband heard the gunshots. He understood. So, he told me to flee with our children, and then he joined us a few days later. I was so afraid. We fled from our village, which was located in the red zone, where armed groups have wreaked havoc. We fled to my mother's house, here in Djenne, Mali. She still has children at home and sells pancakes to earn a little money. There are ten of us now, in her home. My husband had to leave as well - he couldn't stay there. Without CARE's help, we would have never made it. We lost everything - everything - when we left home. I know I will never get back my belongings. But I still have my family here, alive. It's very hard. My name is Sarata."

Next to her was a very thin man with a blank stare. He left everything behind as well. Even his wife and children, who are in a city miles away. When he fled the violence, he may have taken his family and left physically, but his spirit stayed behind. He has been confused since that day. When I asked him why his family was not with him, he didn't even know. "I want to go back home - back to the way my life used to be." That's all he could tell me. His name? He isn't sure anymore.

Nearby, another woman. "My name is Mariama." When the armed groups invaded their neighborhood, she and her sister fled with the children. Her husband stayed, because he was afraid of losing his business and all their belongings. She's twenty years old, has a nursing 7-month-old and a 5-year-old, all staying with their grandmother. She took them in. The grandmother - who still has her own children at home - made room for them. She received a kit of essential items (cups, casserole, blanket, mat, soap) distributed by CARE and its local partner A.A.D.I., but no food, because there were no rations left. Her little girl is crying. She's hungry, but her mother's milk is lacking. "There isn't much," the beautiful Mariama tells me. "We don't have enough food." But she smiles, and tells me about her dreams for her daughters. One day, they will be educated. They'll go into medicine, or maybe they'll be teachers. "One day, we'll go back home."

They are just here temporarily, until things calm down and the violence dissipates. They are internally displaced persons, the forgotten victims of human conflicts, the forgotten ones of humanitarian disasters.

* The names in this story have been changed in order to protect the identity of the interview subjects.

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