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This is home

Home. It is something we all have in common. The yearning for that place which provides us somewhere we truly belong, it holds a space inside all of us.

Home is where we can take refuge from the world. It is not made of bricks and mortar, but simply and wholly of safety, sanctity and love. A place that you and your family can call your own, and it is the right of every human being to have this. No matter who they are, or where they come from. 

Conflict and natural disasters are displacing more and more people each year. Today, all across the world there are tens of millions of people who have lost their homes. From the Middle East to the Horn of Africa, to Europe, Asia and the Pacific. No corner of the world has been untouched by this crisis. Houses have been destroyed, families have been ripped apart, but so many have managed to overcome the hardship and the heartache to create new lives for themselves and their families. 

These are some of the places people call home.

COX’S BAZAR, BANGLADESH

Nur Hasina with her three-year-old son, Hasi Mulla, in their home built from mud, bamboo and plastic. Photo: IFRC/AJ Ghani.

The house is small, much smaller than Nur’s old house in Myanmar. She, her husband and their five children all live here after they had to flee to Bangladesh in fear for their lives. They trekked for eight days and nights in the jungle, travelling only at night and hiding during the day. They had no food and no water and had to rely on strangers they met along the way for help.

There were points where they thought their children were going to die. They had grown so thin and weary throughout the trip, but they eventually made it to Bangladesh and set up camp here in Cox’s Bazar.

Nur with her two sons Hasi Mulla and Joshi Mulla. Photo: IFRC/AJ Ghani.

The refugee camp is home to over 1 million people, the majority of whom fled violence in Myanmar in 2017. Nur says that even though their home is small she is happy because for the first time in her life she feels safe. They get a good night’s sleep, they no longer worry that harm will come to them or their children in the middle of the night. 

Nur says that even though their home is small she is happy because for the first time in her life she feels safe.

She says her children fill her heart with joy, because now the hopes she had for them – an education and a real chance at life – seem possible here in Cox’s Bazar. There is a community here where neighbour helps neighbour, and friends become family. Life is hard, but Nur is happy.

AMMAN, JORDAN 

Tahani holding the keys to her home. Photo: British Red Cross/Andrew McConnel.

Tahani holds the keys to her home back in Syria. It is the only item she took with her when her family fled five years ago. They had been living in peace and were happy in a house that they had spent 20 years working towards owning. “We worked so hard to save money and build our house. We finally had it and then suddenly there was no home.” 

The family fled Syria after their house was damaged in the fighting. Her eldest daughter lost her husband in the fighting. He died in front of their three-year-old daughter. She still remembers. 

Tahani receives financial support from the Jordan Red Crescent. This helps her pay for bills, the rent and buy clothes for her children. “The cash means I’m free. If we didn’t have this cash I’d be in Zataari camp.”

Tahani Taha Al-Musalmani, 45, (centre) pictured with (L-R) Amal (daughter, 24) Mohammed (grandson, 5) Seeba (granddaughter, 7) Hudeifa (son, 7), Hajaj (son, 11) and Hamza (son, 8), at their rented accommodation in Amman, Jordan. Photo: British Red Cross/Andrew McConnell.

The family never thought that they would still be in Jordan after five years. Tahani’s husband returned to Syria once he knew his family was safe. He wanted to go back and rebuild their home so that, when it was safe, they could return. They stayed in touch for a year but suddenly she stopped hearing from him; she has no contact with him now and doesn’t know if he’s dead or alive. 

I miss everything about Syria, my house, my family. I miss the trees, I miss the air, I miss the land.

“I miss everything about Syria, my house, my family. I miss the trees, I miss the air, I miss the land. All my kids ask me about Syria. They ask me when we’re going back and why we had to come to Jordan. One of my sons, he planted a tree near our home, he wants to go back and see how it’s grown," Tahani says.

“I have the keys to my house, even though it’s gone now. I hold the keys and feel relief.”

YAMBIO, SOUTH SUDAN

Elizabeth stands in front of her home in Mokongo, Yambio with her two-year-old son, Laurence on her hip and daughters, Scholastica (5 years old) and Linda (7 years old). Photo: IFRC/Corrie Butler.

Last year, Elizabeth fled conflict in her village in Rangu with her three children, two sisters and brother. She lost her husband when she fled and has not heard from him since. The week-long journey by foot was long and dangerous.

"We were hiding from the people with guns. There were many and we were very afraid," recalls Elizabeth. "During the night, we stayed anywhere we could find shade, usually under a tree. It was very tiresome and the children got sick."

We were hiding from the people with guns. There were many and we were very afraid.

Settling into her new home in Yambio, Elizabeth is making a new life for herself and her children. She expresses her gratitude for the community in Yambio which has embraced her, providing her with a house for her family which has now grown to nine. South Sudan Red Cross volunteers have provided her with critical health and sanitation information to ensure she keeps her and her children healthy. In addition, the newly constructed borehole saves her more than three hours a day in fetching water.

Elizabeth with a South Sudan Red Cross volunteer, Gloria. Photo: IFRC/Corrie Butler

“I miss farming the most from back home,” she recalls. "But I can begin to grow maize, rice and sorghum to sell and feed my family here," says Elizabeth with a hopeful smile. “I hope my children can study well here.”

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA

Sayed at home in Adelaide, Australia. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Aysha Leo.

“Every person has a country and that country is like their mother,” says Sayed. But when war came to Afghanistan he had to leave his mother and his country and everything he knew in order to survive.  Now Sayed and his wife call Adelaide home, but this wasn’t always the case.

Sayed fled Afghanistan for the first time at the age of 9. He spent twenty years as a refugee in Iran, but he had always wanted to return home. There was a longing, a grief for that which he had lost. It had stayed with him all his life. So, against all the advice from his family, Sayed tried to get their home in Mazar-i-Sharif back from the group who took it, only to have a gun put to his head and beaten to within an inch of his life.

This world belongs to us and we belong to this world and we all belong to each other.

Then they tried to live in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, but the violence was too much. Every night he and his wife would awake to the sound of bombs exploding. Every night she would cry, begging to leave. Go anywhere. Just get out of Afghanistan.

So they escaped. First to Dubai, then to Indonesia then finally onto a boat headed for Australia. It took fourteen days and fourteen nights to reach Australia; they almost died on their trip. A trauma that still lives with Sayed every day. “I will never forget the things that happened in the seas,” he says.

Sayed at home in Afghanistan.

When they finally arrived on Christmas Island Sayed felt safe. After everything they had endured, the war, the boat trip, the violence, all the loss, finally Sayed and his wife felt as though they could start again.

Today, Sayed and his wife have a home, he has a stable job and they look forward to leading productive lives in Australia. “This world belongs to us and we belong to this world and we all belong to each other. We are created so we can help one another so we can all continue this beautiful life.”

SOLOMON ISLANDS

Solomon Islands, Kennedy Island, the island is slowly sinking. Sea walls have been built to protect the land but need to be raised up. Photo: IFRC/Benoit Matsha-Carpentier.

For the past 20 years, Solomon Islands has been a hotspot for sea-level rise. Here the sea has risen at almost three times the global average, recently at least five reef islands have been lost completely and a further six have been severely eroded.

These islands lost to the sea range in size from one to five hectares. They supported dense tropical vegetation that was at least 300 years old. Nuatambu Island, home to 25 families, has lost more than half of its habitable area, with 11 houses washed into the sea since 2011.

If the world continues to warm, his home will disappear into the ocean.

Solomon Islands is home to over 600,000 people most of whom, along with many other low-lying Pacific Island nations, will become climate refugees before the end of this century.

Silas may be one of many who will become climate refugees in the near future. Low-lying Pacific Islands are already grappling with rising sea levels due to climate change. Photo: IFRC/ Benoit Matsha-Carpentier.

In Ghatere village on Kolombranga Island, Silas is trying desperately to adapt to the change in weather patterns that has brought an increase in pests and fungus. He is trying to reintroduce original plants and crops that are more resistant. Silas’ community is struggling to produce enough food to sell at market, their production has diminished by almost 70 per cent over the past ten years.

This home that Silas has known for his entire life may no longer be inhabitable in the near future. If the world continues to warm, his home, along with hundreds of thousands of others will disappear into the ocean.  

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