Kakuma News Reflector – A Refugee Free Press

Opinion: Being a Refugee in Mind and Life

Posted in Opinion by KANERE on November 8, 2010

Being a refugee is not an easy matter; it exerts strong impact on different aspects of life and mental peace.

Being a refugee is not an easy matter; it influences many different aspects of life and mental peace. The first impact bears on psychological outlook. The moment someone crosses the border of his country, he will automatically start to show a change of behavior. This is because he will start living with the new culture and customs, and this has a significant role in each and every human behavioral change. The new cultures have a great influence on the mind of every refugee. As time goes on, the new influence will dominate and things will start to balance to the new mode of culture and lifestyle for a refugee.

In spite of this fact, the former character is systematically different from the latter. The influence of this change in behavior will develop into mental stress in almost all refugees, but the degrees of stress will differ according to each and every individual. This is why it becomes a common thing to see some refugees become crazy or seem to go completely mad.

For example, depression is one of the basic factors in the cause of mental disorders among refugees. The other major factor is anxiety, and these two things are common for all refugees throughout the world. They may even continue after resettling to their third countries.

In some countries, such as Libya, Egypt and Yemen, refugees are not seen as human beings. Nowadays such violations have also begun to be seen even in developed countries like Italy and Israel. The measures taken against Eritrean refugees by the Italian government are the best example of objective evidence that can clarify the fact of this truth. On the other hand, the Ethiopian Falashas are not counted as Israeli citizens and there is lucid discrimination towards them from the original Israeli peoples. The taking away of Ethiopian Falashas from the bloody bank of Israel is tangled evidence that can prove that there is a real and concrete discrimination towards Ethiopian Falashas in the country of Israel. Much of this has turned to be the pillar for refugees’ psychological outlook on the destruction of refugees on a global scale.

So based on these accounts, no matter where we live as refugees, each and every refugee has his/her own stress even though its scale differs from country to country of asylum and on an individual basis.

In Kakuma Camp, the place where I used to live after I fled my country (Ethiopia) can be said to be a core of stress. Stress is especially severe at the UNHCR Reception Center; the worst was when you heard the crying of small babies due to shortage of milk , in the lengthy periods waiting to receive food. It’s an undeniable fact that you could really develop real stress even if you consider that you are a free person or free of this problem. Things being as they are, on the other hand you can consider how some would get drunk and disturb others. Not only this, but you will also see some refugees fighting for silly and ordinary things that are so minor and which can sometimes be solved by simple discussions.

If you were to hear that someone had killed his housemate by beating him with a stone while he was in deep sleep, or that another man had cut his dear wife and mother of his children with a knife, I am sure that you would feel shocked and one way or another, you would develop stress and trauma. And as time went on living with such conditions, this would be followed up by depression, and its final state would be mental disorders.

In some cases even small children are seen to be having stress, but it is not permanent like that of adults. The main cause of children’s stress stems from their parents and parental behaviors, where their parents were lacking in some main aspect of bringing them up well. In some cases their school teachers can also be the other cause of stress, and can even be dangerous to a child in the school environment.

Whenever children see the quarrels of their parents, they will experience mental stress. This stress doesn’t stay long with them and they will generally forget it after some time, like the moment they start playing with their fellow kids. But even if it might seem to be forgotten, it is the most dangerous factor to grow up with it.

The other form of children’s stress arises in some incidental cases where they can see that their parents are committing adultery. This also causes them to have mental stress, and in this there can be a condition that makes them not forget it easily. In order to clarify this fact, I am raising a certain issue that took place in Kakuma Three, in the Darfurian community. This case can be a supplementary evidence, where a lady Darfurian was caught by her husband while committing adultery with another man in his own bed. This time her daughter was at home and noticed the drama, while they thought the kid was too young to know what they were up to. But unfortunately the little girl understood the fact that her mother is guilty, and she ran away and told the story of this shameful guilt to her father.

In that moment, the husband went to his house with a sword (panga) in his hand. As the door of the house swung open and the duo was found in motion, the intruder managed to escape while naked but the lady was found and badly cut by the sword. She was taken to the hospital with serious injuries, and the news spread rapidly to the entire community and beyond the neighboring blocks.

2 Responses

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  1. 1 & 3 DEC – Refugees « lateralseoul said, on November 27, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    […] that evoke the human side: A Somali mother’s tale of betrayal, revenge and resettlement and Being a refugee in mind and life. Try to put yourself in the body and mind of a […]

  2. Katherine said, on January 9, 2011 at 5:12 pm


    My name is Katherine and I have spent a lot of time reading about the plight of refugees in Kakuma on your website. I am a university student and working with African refugees in the United States, many coming from Kakuma.

    I am eager to volunteer within Kakuma, but am finding it very difficult to find any organizations I could volunteer with. I would like to come to Kakuma this summer, July-August and work with refugees (children in particular).

    Do you know of any non-profits that are looking for volunteers?

    Thanks again, it’s a blessing to read these entries.

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