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Somalia, 27 October 2013: World Sight Day marked in Mogadishu with performances and poetry by blind school students

© UNICEF Somalia/2013
Sitey Hassan Omar - who lost her sight after catching measles at the age of two - recites a piece on the importance of immunization against the disease.

Mogadishu – 27 October 2013 - Children from the Al Basiir School for the blind performed a thought provoking drama to mark World Sight Day in the Somali Capital, Mogadishu.  Government officials, including the Mayor of Mogadishu, Ministry officials and Parliamentarians along with UNICEF, the African Educational Trust, the African Initiatives for Women in Africa and Somali women’s groups along with parents and pupils from the School attended. The theme of the event was “a Blind Eye is not Blind Mind.”

Mr Abikar Hussein Bashir the Principal explained the Al Basiir School was founded in January 2011 to provide a learning opportunity for blind children. Those involved had carried out house to house mobilization to convince parents of blind children that the children could also learn and attend the boarding school.

Mr Bashir said it was a struggle to find rent, accommodation and food for the children and they had received support from the Somali Women’s Development Centre (SWDC). He said previously World Sight Days, an awareness raising day organized by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness every October, had been held in a small room in Mogadishu rather than a hotel. 

The SWDC coordinator Nadia Suufi committed to continue advocating for the school at every level.

The Mayor of Mogadishu Mohamoud Ahmed Nur (Tarsan) promised to coordinate with Human Development and Public Services Ministry to ensure children with special needs were catered for in the Go To School Initiative. He said he would try to return centres belonging to disabled people and provide software to the school to enable the vision impaired children to use computers.

© UNICEF Somalia/2013
The Mayor of Mogadishu Mohamoud Ahmed Nur (Tarsan) who pledged his full support to advocate for Al Basiir School for the Blind.

The head of social mobilization and advocacy from the Gender Directorate of the Ministry for Human Development and Public Services, Adar said she would continue to advocate for children with special needs at every level.

Anab Hassan Elmi, deputy chair of the Somali National Women’s Organization called on businesspeople and parliamentarians to mobilize resources for the school.

“The blind and deaf-blind children you can see in front of you today are very different from three years ago when I first saw them at school,” she said. “They were so destitute, shabby, and ill-looking. But today they are so impressive, excited and getting an education.” 

The Director of Goob-Joog FM radio in Mogadishu, Abdifatah Hassan Ahmed (Kalga'al) who himself is blind called for the rights of children with special needs to be included in the Constitution and gained the support of Parliamentarian Abdulahi Mohamed Abshi.

Marian Abkow from UNICEF Somalia, which supported the day’s events, called for all children to be equally treated, respected and protected adding that a blind child has same rights as a sighted one.

During the discussion, blind role models who contributed to the community were highlighted including the Somali poet Ali Abdulle Guure who became blind after contracting measles. 

Mohamed Khalif Omar, a blind deputy principal and teacher at Al-Basiir School who graduated from Mount Kenya University in Kenya said it was often the community which was blind – not the blind people themselves.

Abdifatah Maraye, a young Canadian Somali said he was visiting Mogadishu and pledged to carry out fund raising for the school.

The performances by the children of Al-Basiir school included one by a girl who was blinded by measles at the age of two, called Sitey Hassan Omar, now aged 15:

“Measles , Measles, Measles, you have denied us the joy to see.
East , West, North and South, you find a blind child  - but why did you do this to us ?
I know there was no immunization. My brother, my sister, my aunt, and fellow countrymen don’t  let this happen again.
Let us take our children for immunization. Let us immunize all our children.
Measles took away my sight . If it wasn’t for measles, I would not have lost my eye sight. Let us join together and say no to more blindness because of measles.”

 

 
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