Abdulkhadir’s Story, Yemen

Abdulkhadir in the wheelchair. Photo by D. Khan/2014.

Abdulkhadir (in the wheelchair) at a table tennis match. Photo by D. Khan/2014.

I was born in Mogadishu in 1992. I fled to Yemen in August 2008. Despite the conflict, I used to live a normal life with my family in Mogadishu where I finished my intermediate school and stopped my education in the high school before I completed it for lack of financial support. I started working as a tailor to support my family, until one day in 2006 an armed conflict erupted in my neighborhood. My family fled the area and only my cousin and I remained in the house to guard it against robbers. During the fighting, my cousin was shot dead and I had to jump off from the roof. I sustained serious injuries in the back bone and when I woke up I had no feelings in my legs. I was told I would be disabled for life having lost sensation in my legs and backbone.

My condition couldn’t be treated in Somalia and had to go abroad for treatment. As my family had no money, I opted to take the risky journey by boat from Bosaso to Yemen. During the boat journey I didn’t face any problem but after landing I was left behind because I wasn’t able to walk. In the road a car that was patrolling the shore came to me and took me to Mayfa’a reception center, after which I managed to go to the urban area of Basateen in Aden. While in Basateen I ran out of money and tried to find ways to sustain myself on a daily basis.

I was told that there are smugglers who feed new arrivals who want to be taken to Saudi Arabia till they receive the remittance from their families. I went to the smugglers and I was fed there but when they learned that neither I nor my family could afford to the journey, they asked me to leave. Other suggested I beg and offered to take me with them.

After meeting with those people and realizing that I was not the only one who was helpless and disabled, I thought about establishing an association that advocated for the needs of the disabled persons. To make this idea work I started to register the names of the disabled persons in the area and their exact kind of disability. I started registering them under the tree where most refugees gathered. I encouraged them that we should meet regularly to discuss our problems in order to could come up with possible solutions. Some agreed with me but many others said that there is no association, NGO or government organization that helps specifically the disabled people. Others were even more cynical and felt no one had the time to go to organizations because they were busy to find their daily food. I offered to do all the coordination and take on the role of registration for even as long as I am alive. I did this even though finding daily earnings was difficult as it is, owing to my health problems.

Photo by D. Khan/2014.

Photo by D. Khan/2014.

But soon my determination paid off, along with some others. In a period of two weeks I registered 60 disabled persons with disaggregated data, contact details and how to find those who had no phones so that we could meet for our discussions. The group collected some money and decided to go to UNHCR to meet them. With the support of UNHCR the Council was established.

In the months that followed, UNHCR contacted us and told us that they had an agreement with a Yemeni association specialized in persons with disabilities to provide us with tools and skills training that we requested. In 2009 the training of the first group consisted of 10 persons, male and female. The trainings were in computer, tailoring, air conditioning, etc. The NGO also provided refugees with disabilities with all kind of assistive devices and physiotherapy.

All the above mentioned training opportunities were the achievements of the council, participating actively in all activities in the Basateen refugee community whether it is cleaning campaigns, meetings with other community members and councils as well as local and international organizations.

The committee for persons with disabilities is now well recognized by the community and periodical elections take place every two years. The success of this association is a matter of personal success and encouragement for me, and to other disabled refugees.

1 family torn apart by war is too many

Learn more about our work with refugees at UNHCR.org