Abdikani Yusuf: A Somali Refugee’s Story

 “I decided to go back to Mogadishu because I thought I would die and I did not want to be a burden to my wife and the community in Cape Town where I lived for one year. Now I am hopeful that soon I will see my little girls and I will be able to play and laugh with them.“

Tahrib - ‘Grass is greener on the other side’

In June 2009, Abdikani Yusuf began his journey of hope from Mogadishu to Cape Town, South Africa through Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique. The treacherous three-day journey was nothing he could imagine. Little did he know it would take a toll on his health in the long run. The journey was perilous as he and others gave up everything for a new chance of life in the Promised Land, away from hunger and conflict in their home country.

Together with his colleagues, Yusuf didn’t have proper documentation and they had to be smuggled through Kenya’s border town of Liboi. After the arduous journey that lasted for eleven days, he reached Cape Town - at last his dream was fulfilled. He found refuge in a township predominantly influenced by the Somali community. Days later, Lady Luck smiled on him and he was offered a job in a small kiosk.

A Hiccup

A happy man Abdikani was, he was healthy had a hardworking wife and two beautiful and healthy daughters. His life was on track and nothing could interfere with his goal of being the best husband and father. “I adore my children and nothing in this world could stop me from being with them. Not even TB, when I started feeling sick in 2013 I did not think it will be this serious. I thought it was because of the change in weather. Cape Town can be very cold in winter and since I was not used to this in Somalia, it must have affected me.” He went to a health facility where he was diagnosed with TB and started on treatment for six months. Unfortunately, his health seemed to deteriorate even further. “After six months of medication I was still not feeling well, the symptoms got worse I was sweating profusely, the headaches and the coughing became worse.”

The Tough Call

His friends and relatives feared for his life and advised that he go back home to Somalia to die. They lost all hope and he yearned to see his parents before his death. A fundraising and economy class ticket later, AbdiKani was received by his parents at the airport in Mogadishu, weak and exhausted. He could not say much.

Upon the insistence of his mother, Abdikani sought a second opinion from a well-known physician. He underwent a series of tests including giving a sample of sputum and smear culture which are the standard TB tests. When he went back to get the results, he was dumbstruck as he was informed he had contracted the Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) bacteria. The doctor then advised him to go to the IOM MDR-TB center in Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya as there was no health facility within Somalia that could treat the bacteria. 

A Second Chance

Desperate and feeling hopeless, 28-year-old Abdikani Yusuf, though very weak, travelled over 714 km from Mogadishu to Dadaab, Kenya in search of lifesaving treatment. On reaching the health facility he presented the results and tests were done afresh. On confirmation of the previous test results he was started on medication immediately.

The nurse in charge, Mohammed Abdi Hassan said, “In the three months that Abdikani has been here, he has made tremendous progress, he has gained considerable weight and his sputum results are continuing to show a lot of improvement. He has been very cooperative and comes for his oral medication and injection on time; we believe he will fully recover and go back to his family.”

‘’I am counting the days to my full recovery, my wife is very happy and my daughters are now able to talk, they ask me when I am going back or if they can come visit me here. I can only tell them that I will be home soon. That is the only promise I can make.”

The MDR-TB Clinic was operated by IOM from 2013 to January 2016. UNHCR provided the infrastructure support while IOM provided diagnostic and clinical management, and the National TB Programme delivered the MDR-TB medication. Through that period the co-infection rate was at zero percent and the patient recovery rate was at 87 percent, with only 5 patients out of 227 defaulting on treatment.