Health officials in Minnesota have been scrambling to contain a measles outbreak that has sickened primarily Somali-American children in the state. So far health officials have identified 34 cases, still mostly in Hennepin County, and they’re worried there will be more.
In Minnesota, the vast majority of kids under two get vaccinated against measles. But state health officials say most Somali-American 2-year-olds have not had the vaccine — about six out of ten. As the outbreak spreads, that statistic worries health officials, including Michael Osterholm, who directs the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
“It is a highly concentrated number of unvaccinated people,” he says. “It is a potential kind of gas-and-match situation.”
Photo: Mark Zdechlik/MPR Caption: Khadra Abdulle, a resident of St. Paul, stops to shop at the Riverside Market in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. It’s the inaccurate information about a link between vaccines and autism, she says, that’s keeping some well-meaning parents from getting their kids vaccinated against measles.
“I have 14 children; one was born mute, and the other one became blind
at an early age. In the beginning, I spent a lot of time thinking that
if I’m no longer in this world, how will they survive? So I took
action, I enrolled my blind son into a local school in Mogadishu, but he
had trouble adjusting to it, so I decided to homeschool him instead. I
bought him Braille textbooks and taught him how to read. I used to be a
teacher before the civil war, so based on my experience, I wrote a book
specifically for him and used that as his customised guide for reading
and learning mathematics. After a while, he started taking a huge
interest in education, so I enrolled him in an upcoming small school for
blinds. Because the country was going through a civil war, the school
didn’t have the necessary books to teach their students how to read
correctly. I donated the book that I wrote for my son, the same book
that I taught him how to read and they loved it. I’m an old man; I won’t
be in this world forever. I needed to leave something behind that will
allow my 2 disabled children to become self-sufficient, that they will
be okay in the end. I first married my blind son off, and now he has a
son. I believe that if I’m gone, he won’t feel loneliness, the impact of
my absence will not bother him and his son can help him once he becomes
old himself. God gave us children, but the most important thing is
having the understanding that no matter what ailment your child’s
suffering from, you have to be there for them. We’ve to support our
“Waxaan dhalay 14 caruura, labo ka mid
ah caruurtay, mid ma hadlo oo hadalka ka xirmay, wuuna ku dhashay. Mid
ka kale, indhaha ayaanu si wacan wax uga arkin oo mid kaliya ayuu inyar
wax ka arki jiray. Aakhirkii way xirantay oo indhoole ayuu noqday.
Mudadaas ilaa iminka waa labada ilmood ee igu warwarka badan, waxaan ka
fakari jiray, waa wax siin doona hadii aan meesha ka baxo. Waxaan
go’aansaday inaan iskuul ku yaala Xamar qoro wiilkayga indhoolaha,
laakin way ku adkaatay dhigashada iskuulka. Laakiin waxaa markaas
bilaabay sidaan uu caawin karo. Waxaan u soo iibiyey bugaagta dadka
indhoolaha wax lagu baro. Kadib aniga wax bari jiray qaab ka duwan kii
iskuulka aan geeyey. Muddo kadib waxbarashadii ayuu jeclaaday. Mudadda
aan wax uu dhigayey baan ku qoray iskuul cusub oo lagu talo galay dadka
indhaha naafada ka ah. Laakiin, may haysan bugaag ama wax ardayda wax
lagu baro. Waddankuna dagaal ahli baa ka socday. Waxaan sameeyey inaan u
hibeeyo buuggii aan qoray oo ahaa kii aan wiilkayga wax ku baray. Aad
bey u jeclaadeen. Waxaa kaliya aan ka warwarsanahay waa labada wiil ee
aan dhalay yaa kaalmayn doono, wax uu qaban doona hadii aan dhinto
maanta. Talaabada ku xigta aan sameeyey wiilkayga indhoolaha gabar ayaan
uu guuriyey, wiilna ayeey uu dhashay. Sababta aan sidaas uu sameeyey
waxaa weeye, si wiilkiisu uu dhalay berito uu kaxeeyo oo uuna dareemin
cidlo. Dhamaan Illaahay baa na siiyey caruurta laakiin muhiimada waxaa
weeye inaan fahano sideen caruurteena noloshooda uu gacan qabanayna.
Illaahay wuu kugu imtaxaamaya, adna maaha inaad tiraahdid, may wuu indho
belay bes fariiso. Maya, waa inaan garab istaagno caruurteena.”
“I arrived at this refugee camp as a toddler and an orphan. My father was killed during the civil war, some bandits robbed his livestock and shot him in the process. Growing up was tough, and if I reflect on it, I get teary-eyed. I remember as a kid, we were so poor that I had to wear plastic bags as clothes so that I could attend school. At the time, I assumed it was normal to be this poor where you couldn’t afford normal clothes. In a way, I’m glad that I thought it was normal because it kept me going so that I could finish my school. I didn’t see it as an excuse; otherwise, I would have engaged in self-pity, feeling sorry for my family and myself that we were this dirt-poor instead of changing our situation. So there is always a silver-lining in every situation. We are not as poor as we used to be, thank God. I am currently training to be a human rights lawyer as I want to make sure that other poor Somali children have some chance at life.”
(Dadaab Refugee Camp)
“Waxaan imid xerradan qaxootiga anigoo ilmo yar ah hadana agoon ah. Aabbahay waxaa lagu dilay dagaaladii sookeeye, kooxo hubaysan xoolihiisi dhacay kadibna toogtay. In aan xaladaas ku koro waxay ahayd mid aad xanuun badan, markasta eego xaladaas ilmo iga soo dadata. Waxaan xasuusto caruurnimadaydi waxaanu ahayn faqiir markaa waxaan xiran jiray bacaha balaastiig ah si aan iskuulka u tago. Wakhtigaas waxaan u malaynaya in ay ahayd marxalad caadi ah sababto ah in aan laga iibsan karayn dhar halkan. Si kale hadii aan u eego, waan ku faraxsanahay in la igu yiraahdo waa caadi sababto ah waxay ii fududaysay in aan dhamaysto iskuulka hadii kale, waxaan ku dhici laha marxalad kale, qoyskaygana waxaan ku keeni laha in ay ka xumaadaan in aanu ahayn kuwo aad u faqiir ah, halkii aan xaaladas iska bedeli laha, Markas waxaa jirta in marlaxad kastoo ay leedahay qayb fiican. Hada manihin faqiir sidii aanu ahaan jirnay markii hore. Hadda waxaan barta sidii aan u noqon laha abukaate u dooda xuquuqda bani’adamka waxaan doonaya in aan hubsado in cunug kasta oo Soomaali ah uu helo fursad nololeed.”
Today,I saw this Somali father with his son in the bus. They were sitting in the seat in front me and as I always do,I was observing them. One of the reasons why they caught my attention is not only because they’re Somalis,but also because I don’t often see a Somali father with his sons…not these days. It’s always something very magical about father & son and mother & daughter moments.
They have beautiful love for each other. It was heartwarming to watch them. The son was maybe 8. I pray for them and may their love grow stronger. I thought I would share a little bit of this conversation they had:
Son:“Aabo,we had religion class today. They told us about Jesus,and I told my teacher what you taught me”
Father:“What did you say?”
Son:“I told her that in my religion,Jesus is a prophet and that we love him so much”
Father: *pats his head and smiles* “Wiil fiican baad tahay (you’re a good boy). What did your teacher say?”
And I could see this smile in the father’s face that was so real! He was proud of his son. Beautiful!
My father just opened up a pharmacy in Somalia. I’m happy for him, truly happy for him. I hope that it prospers and that Allah rewards him immensely for opening up this pharmacy to help our people. Please make duaa that Allah makes this pharmacy a success. Pray that my father gets rewarded for providing medicine to those who need it most and can barely afford it. Please pray that Somalia becomes a country of peace and stability. Pray that my people no longer sleep hungry, pray that Somali children can play outside without fear of being bomb. Pray that Somalia prospers and pray that my father’s pharmacy becomes a success!
“I am a single father and it’s not easy raising 7 children alone. At the onset of Somalia’s civil war, many families broke down. I used to have a wife, the mother to my children but once the central government collapsed, she wanted to migrate to outside the country, in fact she was infatuated with it, thinking that there is some kind of paradise awaiting us outside our own country. My opinion at the time was that we stay inside the country and raise our young children first in a much safer area of the country for they need our care and support. I sensed that she was still unsettled. After a while, she asked me for some travel money in order to visit a doctor in Yemen. Since she was so adamant and I thought maybe a quick break would do her good, I gave her the money and she left. She was gone for a good time and made it extremely difficult for me to reach her, on top of that I was busy raising our 7 small children. I got very worried until she contacted me after 7 long months of no communication. She gave me an ultimatum, either move here to Yemen or give me my divorce papers. I told her that we didn’t have the resources to move there as the children were still in school and that I was a simple labourer. Again, 4 months passed until I got the second call and she asked for her divorce papers, saying that she found a new life in Yemen. Afraid of losing her, I quickly removed the children from school and we went to Aden (Yemen) to join her, not fully knowing where she is. For 4 straight years, we were looking for her and the minute we approached the fifth year, I discovered that she already moved to Europe and created a new family there. Some time passed and she randomly called me asking for her divorce papers once again, this time I gave it to her for my heart was already broken. My children and I left Yemen straight away and moved back to Garowe and I’ve raised them here ever since. They all are in full time education and since this is something that God already predestined it, I’ve accepted it.”
“Hawl sahalan ma aha inu hal waalid 7 caruur koriyo. Wakhtigii ay bilaabmeen dagaalaadii Soomaaliya, waxaa burburay qoysas fara badan. Anigu xaas baan lahaa wakhtigaas, waxay aad uu jeclayd inee waddanka ka dhoofto oo qurbaha ay tagto laakin anigu kumaan waafaqsaneeyn fikirkaas oo wakhtigaas 7 caruur ayey ii dhashay iyagaan aad ugu mashquulsanaa. Kadib maalin maalmaha ka mid ahwaxay igu tiri Yemen ayaan dhakhatar ugu tagayaa ee isii lacag aan ku baxo. Aniguna wakhtiga oo aad uu adkaa iyo hadalkeeda oo aan uu arkayey iney uu baahan tahay nasasho, waan siiyey lacagtii, kadiib way baxday. Muddo markii ay maqneyd, waxaan waayey wax aanu kala xiriirno oo aniga iyo ciyaalka aad uu yaryaraa ku mashquulsanaa aad baan ugu warwaray. Wakhti badan kadib oo ay maqneyd 7 bilood waxay ii sheegtey in aan xaggaas usoo guuro hadii kale aan kala tagno. Aniguna waxaan ku iri xaggaas wax aan ku tago aanan haysan, caruurtana iskuul bey dhigtaan xaggaan ka xamaashaa oo nin xamaal ah baan ahay. Muddo 4 bilood kadib, waxay ila soo hadashay iguna tiri inay uu baahan tahay warqadii aan ku qabay oo ay iga maarantay nololna xaggaas ku haysato. Anigoo baqdin ka qabay inaan xaaskayga waayo, caruurtii baa durba iskuulka kala soo baxay, dabadeedna geeyey Caden (Yemen). Muddo 4 sano joognay, waan ka raadiyey, waana waayey. Markii sanadkii shanaad uu noo dhamaaday, waxaa laygu sheegay inay mar hore Yurub uu baxday oo ay reer kale samaystay. Sidii ayeey muddo kadib ilasoo hadashay, iyadoo doonaysa warqadii furitaanka. Waan murugooday dabadeedna waxaan iska go’aansaday inaan u fudeediyo oo waan furay maadaame ee yeelatay nolol kale. Waxaan kusoo laabtay magaaladda Garowe, xaggaas ayaan caruurtayda ku koriyey oo hadda jaamacaddo dhigtaan. Maadaame ee waxaan tahay wax Alle qoray, waan aqbalay.”
“He left me for a younger woman. We have 5 children together
and the time I needed him the most, he wasn’t there. Instead, he got tired of
it and found himself a younger version of me. If he was going to treat me like
this, why did he marry me in the first place? What did she have that I didn’t
have? Let me tell you, if I knew this was going to happen, I would have stayed
at my parents’ home, enjoying singlehood for the rest of my life. I don’t want
to generalise but at this very moment, I truly believe that men are responsible
for women’s misery.”
“Wuu naga cararay oo gabar iga da’yar ayuu guursaday. Waxaan leenahay 5 caruuro. Markaan u dhalay, wakhtigii igu adkaa ee aan uu baahnaa in uu ii tageero ayuu naga cararay. wuu na dayacay, gabar kale oo da’yar buu guursaday. Ma garankaro sababtuu u guursaday ee caruurtisa u dayacay. Hadii aan ogaan laha inuu sidaa ila dhaqmayo gurigii waalidkay kama imadeen waa iska joogi laha. Inkasto caruur Ilaahay isiiyey hadana marmar nolosha sidan oo kale ah waxaan is iraahda guur la’aanta dhaanta. Ma doonayo in dhibaatada dumarka dusha ugu saaro dhamaan ragga Soomaaliyeed laakin hadda, waxaan aaminsanahay in dhibta dumarka Soomaalida haysata inteeda badan raggu inee masuul ka yihin.”
“I’m a grandmother and a female construction worker. I’m almost 60 years old and separated with my ex-husband close to 13 years ago. I have 9 children, 6 of them have their own families but I still take care of the youngest 3 as they are still young. I forced them into education and pay all their expenses. I want them to have a future that I couldn’t have. Education is the key to life. Usually in the Somali culture, your adult children take care of you when you’re old but my oldest son has 11 children and he is working hard to take care of them so I don’t pressure him. It’s hard work but I’m a hard worker and on a good day; I earn around 4 dollars. We go to the construction site at 6 am in the morning and get selected. The Somali women are preferred more than the Somali men because we work harder and are more reliable. Amongst us women, we have a system in place. The older Somali women amongst us do the simpler tasks such as fetching water whilst the rest of us make the cement and collect stones. We finish late afternoon and go back to being a mother. It’s around the time when the kids come back from school. We talk about what they have been doing for the day. I’ve been doing this type of job for close to 7 years and to be honest, I’m happy with it because it’s at least something.”
“Waxaan ahay ayeeyo iyo shaqaale dhismaha ka shaqeeya. Da’dayda waxay ku dhawdahay 60 sanno. Ninkaygii wakhti hore ayaanu kala tagnay ku dhawaad 13 sano ayaanu kala maqanahay. Waxaan leeyahay 9 caruura, qaarkood way shaqeystaan oo reero ayeey leeyihin laakin 3 ka mid ah ayaan awoodin oo weli gaadhin inay shaqeystaan. Waxbarasho ayaan ku ku qasbay, kharashka ku baxa aniga bixiya. Waxaan jecelahay inee helaan mustaqbal wacan oo markii hore anigu aanan nasiib u helin hadu Alle idmo. Waayo, dhibaato iyo rafaad inee la kulmaan ma rabo. Waxbarashadda waa furaha nolosha. Dhaqanka Soomaaliyeed, markaad waayeel noqotid, caruurtaada ku daryeesha laakin Inankayga ugu weyn 11 caruur ayuu leeyahay, reerkiisa ayuu u shaqeeya marka culays ma saaro. Runti, shaqo adag weeye, laakin shaqaala adag baan ahay. Maalinta ugu fiican, waxaan qaata 4 doolar. Waxaan soo kalahaa aroortii si aan uu raadsado shaqo dhisme ah. Dumarka Soomaaliyeed ayaa markasta la doorbida dhanka shaqada oo markasta la qaata, waayo waan ka shaqo wacanahay raga. Nidaam baan leenahay, shaqadda aanu qabano waa biyaha oonu soo shubno marna dhagaxa ayaanu gurna marna sibidhka ayaanu qoosh-naa. Qofka noogu yara weyn baa loo dhiibaa biyaha waayo ma awoodi karto culays badan. Waxaan so rawaxnaa salaada Casar waa xiliga caruurtu iskuulka ka so baxaan. Waxaan ka wareesta waxbarashadooda iyo halka wax u marinayaan iyo side uu noolaayeen maalintooda. Mudo 7 sano ku dhow ayaan ka shaqeenayeey shaqaddan, runti waan ku qanacsanahay madaama aanan haysan bedel kale oon ku doorsado.”
Aswan Mohamoud Jibril at 26 became one of Somaliland's first female prosecutors.
Born and raised in Borama, which lies on the Ethiopian border, she has became a very passionate advocate for women’s equality in the region.
Aswan’s determination to fulfill her dream of becoming a lawyer led her first to apply for a scholarship to study law supported by UNDP.
“I was alerted of the UNDP-sponsored scholarship programme for women. I applied, and was lucky enough to be accepted. I graduated and secured an .LL.B in 2009. Two days only after my graduation, I enrolled in a 10-month internship programme, together with other female law graduates, through the Somaliland Women Lawyers Association, thanks to UNDP support,” she said.
Aswan was appointed as a prosecutor with the Somaliland Prosecutor’s Office, and spends her days in court prosecuting those convicted of a range of crimes, but mainly of crimes against women and children.