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Touring through Eritrea
November and December 2006
 
Asmara and surroundings
November and December 2006
 

 

Afabet Eritrea - November 27th 2006

 

Most people acquire some type of visual problem at some point in their lives. Some can no longer see objects far away, while others have problems reading small print. And some lose total sight. The five children of Mr. Mohamed Nur Abubeker in Afabet belong to the last group.

Read more ......

The house in which the family is now living, is made of wood and grass and can be easily destroyed by one simple rainstorm. Earlier, the Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare has given them 2,000 Nakfa, which they used to buy concrete blocks to build a one room house; but they didnít manage it as they didnít have enough additional funds.

The Eritrean Community in Holland started raising funds for this family during the Festival Eritrea 2006 in Utrecht, where children maintained the toilets (and donated all gains to the campaign), and adults discussed and displayed various initiatives and activities, to help this family financially.

With the cooperation of the Embassy of the State of Eritrea in The Hague, the Ministry of Tourism, and the PFDJ, I received a permit to travel to Afabet, to visit this family (usually tourists are not allowed to visit this area).

Very early in the morning - it is still completely dark - I walk to the Keren bus station with Afworki, who will take the bus to Asmara for a visit to the hospital. It is before 6:00, but Afworki is just to late to have the first bus to Asmara.

The bus to Afabet is waiting for its last passengers, but it will not leave before 7:00 and even then it will stop several times in the outskirts of Keren to collect cargo which is stored on its roof. It is an old bus, but it is strong enough to climb over the hills and to cross the empty riverbeds.

After a stopover in Kelhamed (tea and breakfast break) we pass the Afabet checkpoint at 10:00. The first stop in Afabet is right in front of the administration building, so I am lucky to skip the search for this building, and walk into the first office I pass, and all the luck will be with me today. My fear for the "unknown" turns out to be completely unnecessary. Everywhere I go, I meet kind assistance.

I show my letter of recommendation to a female secretary, who guides me to a second office. The government worker, introducing himself as Mehari, reads my letter and brings me to the room of Ahmed Mohamenur, the City Administrator, the mayor of Afabet.

The Administrator is surprised that there is a foreign visitor for the family of the five blind children. He sends someone to make sure that the family is complete, so I can meet the family as a whole, and we drink tea in front of a bar in the main street of Afabet.

I tell him about the campaign for this family, organized in Holland where Eritreans, both young and old. spend their energy and time to raise money to help this unhappy family. The mayor is touched. He explains that the Eritrean government is unable to manage all the families in trouble. There are too many problems, and insufficient resources to solve them all. The assistance of Eritreans living in the Diaspora is therefore most appreciated.

After half an hour we walk to the compound, where the family Nur Abubeker lives in four small houses, made of wooden poles. I am introduced to all family members, who come forward a few steps, so I can walk the last steps towards them, since they are unable to see me. We shake hands and with the help of the mayor and a second official, I speak some words with the family.

I did not prepare a speech, nor did I think in advance what to say to the family. But the least I can do is tell them that their faith and their handicap has touched the hearts of the Eritrean Community in The Netherlands. I tell them about the Eritrean children working for them at the Festival Eritrea in Holland. "We consider you our brother, now that you traveled this far to visit us, and bring us the good news", the 60 year old mother Fatuma says.

The mayor shows me their house: four small constructions made of wood. A bedroom for the four women, a bedroom for the two men, a living room, and a kitchen. He also shows me the piles of bricks, that have been made by the family themselves with the 2000 Nakfa donated by the government, who also gave them a piece of land to build a new house.

Idris shows me his savings account at the Commercial Bank of Eritrea (I pictured it, but removed some non essential areas, like signature and identity card numbers, for security reasons). The essential data will be used to surprise the family with a transfer of 10,000 Nakfa from the Eritrean Community in Rotterdam (and more to come from other Eritrean Communities in The Netherlands), so they will have some financial backup from Holland to construct a decent house.

Ahmed and Mehari guide me to the Tsiku Roman Hotel. It is a modest hotel, only a few years old. The price is only 40 Nakfa (two euro) for one night. Shared toilets and shower. I drink some mineral water before I follow the advice to buy a bus ticket for tomorrow (check-in at 15:00 today and boarding at 5:00 tomorrow morning). 

I walk through the village of Afabet, having a typical vegetarian lunch called "fool", a mix of beans, onions, tomatoes and chily, served with two small breads for 9 Nakfa only. At the market I buy some bananas, some slices of water melon and some local fried snacks. In various small bars I drink tea, to add to my daily ration of four liters of liquid, to prevent dehydration.

I buy my ticket for tomorrow's bus, and at 16:00 when the Commercial Bank opens, I deposit the first 2,000 Nakfa on the savings account of Idris Nur Abubeker. The rest will follow in Asmara, since I don't want to travel with lots of money. The workers of the bank are just as surprised as the mayor. Everyone in Afabet knows this family.

I spend the last hours before dark on the streets of Afabet, making jokes with the children. When I visit their school, I am surrounded by a few hundreds of them. I apologize towards one of the teachers, for any inconvenience caused by my visit to the school. "Be our guest" is their hospitable response.

When I leave the compound, lots of children keep following me, and want me to picture them. It is too dark to make pictures, but how do I explain this to the children, too young to understand my English? Just to get rid of them, I visit the bank a second time, until the children are out of sight.

When it is completely dark I return to the hotel to drink some arakies to eliminate any remaining bacteria in my stomach. Two girls from France and two Eritrean boys share my table. After introducing ourselves, we explain our missions in Afabet. The French girls (both midwives), will train nurses in the Afabet hospital. I tell them about the family I visited today.

At 9:00, after several power failures and arakies illuminated by candle light (fortunately I brought an electric torch), I set the alarm clock at 4:00 and go to sleep.

  

Stopover for breakfast at Kelhamed Eritrea.

Stopover for breakfast at Kelhamed Eritrea.

Two blind daughters of Mohamed Nur Abubeker in their settlement - Afabet.

Two blind daughters of Mohamed Nur Abubeker in their settlement - Afabet.

Savings account number: 1358

Idris Mohammed Nur Abubeker
Commercial Bank of Eritrea
Afabet Branch
Commercial Bank of Eritrea
International Banking Division
Asmara - Eritrea
Account number: 1358 Swift Code: CBERERAIXXX

Idris, Mohammed Ali, Saedia, Bekita, Akiar and (mother) Fatuma - Afabet Eritrea.

Idris, Mohammed Ali, Saedia, Bekita, Akiar
and (mother) Fatuma - Afabet Eritrea.

Piles of stones manufactured by the blind family - Afabet Eritrea.

Piles of stones manufactured by the blind family - Afabet Eritrea.

Main Street - Afabet Eritrea.

Main Street - Afabet Eritrea.

Tsiku Roman Hotel - Afabet Eritrea.

Tsiku Roman Hotel - Afabet Eritrea.

Main street and mosque - Afabet Eritrea.

Main street and mosque - Afabet Eritrea.

Small shop - Afabet Eritrea.

Small shop - Afabet Eritrea.

Water Melon, one Nakfa per slide - Afabet eritrea.

Water melon, one Nakfa per slide - Afabet Eritrea.

Commercial Bank of Eritrea - Afabet Branch.

Commercial Bank of Eritrea - Afabet Branch.

Library - Afabet Eritrea.

Library - Afabet Eritrea.

  

 
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