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F
OCUS ON
FS R
EFLECT IONS
A P
ROMISE TO
A
ISHA
32
F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 2
hrough the dust and shim-
mering heat waves, I could just make out the refugee
camp in the distance. Makeshift tents and squat acacia
trees strained against a hot wind blowing in from the
southeast Ethiopian desert.
It was August 2001, and I was making my first visit
to the region as the U.S. refugee coordinator for the
Horn of Africa. I was based in our embassy in Addis
Ababa, traveling to oversee U.S. government protec-
tion and assistance programs for nearly one million
refugees in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya, Soma-
lia and Sudan.
As our convoy of Landcruisers pulled into the camp
housing several thousand Somali refugees, most of them
from Mogadishu, crowds of young boys chased the ve-
hicles and greeted us with energetic whoops and falsetto
“war cries.” They laughed with a gusto that belied the
intense heat and the squalid conditions.
Ibrahim, my United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees escort, who was also responsible for assistance
at the camp, stopped our 4x4 jeep. We disembarked to
begin our inspection tour. He pointed out a water proj-
ect we had helped fund for the camp, a small agriculture
and forestry project supported by a nongovernmental or-
ganization, and a feeding center. We toured the camp’s
small, makeshift school and visited the clinic.
At the clinic, I spoke with a refugee who was recov-
ering from a gunshot wound he had suffered while
guarding the camp’s water reservoir. A local camel
herder had opened fire on the guard with an AK-47
when the latter prevented him from watering his camels.
I also met a Somali mother carrying her infant son,
who was suffering from hydrocephalus. She begged the
clinic’s lone physician’s assistant to save her child. He
was sympathetic, but told her softly that the infection
was too far advanced.
How, I thought, could I help these people? What
could I do to make a difference for them in this
I
T TAKES A VILLAGE TO HELP
AN
FSO
KEEP HIS PROMISE OF
AID TO A
S
OMALI REFUGEE
.
B
Y
S
TEVE
H
UBLER
Steve Hubler, a Foreign Service officer since 1992, was the
U.S. regional refugee coordinator for the Horn of Africa
from 2001 to 2003, among many other assignments. He is
currently the deputy principal officer at the U.S. consulate
general in St. Petersburg.