Accessibility links

Breaking News

Somali Immigrants Struggle in the US

Somalis leave war and poverty to try living in the United States.
Somalis leave war and poverty to try living in the United States.
Somali Immigrants Struggle in the US
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:10:01 0:00
Direct link

Hello and welcome. It is time to learn and improve your American English. I’m Jim Tedder in Washington. Today we hear the story of a young man who risked his life when he flew outside of a jet airplane. Then the World Health Organization reports that the air we breathe is becoming more polluted every day. What can be done about this unhealthful situation?

You give us ten minutes, and we will give you the answer. As It Is is coming to you from VOA.

International media recently reported the shocking story of 16-year-old Yahye Abdi. The Somali-American teenager survived in the wheel area of a jet while it flew from California to Hawaii. But for Somalis, the story is an example of the issues facing families who fled conflict in Somalia. It shows how many refugees are struggling to deal with change as they get settled in their new home.

Yahye Abdi spent five hours hidden inside the wheel well of an airplane. The jet rose to more than 11,000 meters as it flew high above the Pacific Ocean. Medical experts say the teenager was lucky to survive the severe cold and low levels of oxygen.

One of the questions that rose after the incident was why Yahye Abdi would risk his life.

Both his father and mother said extreme homesickness could have been the reason. Law enforcement officials say the teenager had argued with his father’s family in California. The officials say he was trying to reach Somalia to see his mother.

Abdinur Sheikh Mohamed is an educational specialist with Ohio State University.

Speaking in Somali, he says, “The family structure was broken in general by the process of looking for a second home. Refugees, in general, go through these difficulties in bringing all these families together. In the U.S., we have a family reunification process, where family members who live around the world can be brought together into the U.S., even if it takes a long time.”

Yahye Abdi is not alone in missing family members left behind in Somalia. More than 20 years of lawlessness and civil war has forced hundreds of thousands of Somalis to leave the country. Many say they would have been victims of the violence or starvation if they have stayed in Somalia.

The Somalis who travel to the U.S. have largely settled in the northern city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Americans have generally welcomed the immigrants. But the Somalis have faced difficulties with language and culture.

Abdi Salan Sharif Adam teaches English as a second language in Minneapolis. He says he has observed education-related problems in many Somali children.

“So some students will come to the school system, and they have missed many years of schooling, and they start at an old age, in a grade that is higher than their academic level. So there is discrepancy between their educational ability and the levels that they are placed.”

He also says the breakdown of the family is to blame for some other major problems existing within the Somali-American community.

Twenty-year-old Sa’id Gure is one of those young Somalis struggling to establish his life in the United States. He made a long and dangerous trip to reach his new home. Today he really misses his parents and family.

“I believe that (the) greatest risk is never having to risk. But when you are constantly feeling homesick, it’s very tough. When you are missing your family and they are not around you, it’s a pain.”

Yahye Abdi also felt that pain. His trip on the plane made him famous, but it did not reunite his family. Like other Somali-Americans, he may struggle with longing for Somalia, and learning to live in the country he now calls home.

It Is Getting Harder to Breathe

The World Health Organization says air pollution is getting worse in many cities around the world. WHO officials say the worsening conditions are putting the health of millions of people at risk. Christopher Cruise tells us more.

The latest warning comes after the largest study ever done on air pollution levels in cities. The survey involved 1,600 cities across 91 countries. It showed that people in these urban areas are breathing in dirty air.

Maria Neira is head of the Public Health and Environment Department at the WHO.

“The situation we have in front of us tell(s) us that globally, unfortunately, the situation on air pollution is deteriorating, with an exception on high-income countries where the situation is, as expected, improving. But this represents only 12 percent of the population living in cities.”

Heavy smog in Beijing
Heavy smog in Beijing
The World Health Organization estimates that, in 2012, 3.7 million people under age 60 died earlier than expected because of outdoor air pollution. The WHO says nearly 90 percent of these deaths happened in low- and middle-income countries. The greatest number took place in South East Asian and Western Pacific nations

Health officials say bad air increases the risk of death from heart disease and stroke. It also raises the risk of death from cancers and breathing disorders.

The study identified a number of possible reasons for the increased air pollution. They include dependence on coal-fired power stations and fossil fuels. The study also blamed dependence on cars, wasteful use of energy in buildings and the use of wood and animal waste for cooking and heating.

WHO official Carlos Dora says, unlike with water or waste management, it is not possible to create technology to capture and treat bad air. But he says cities can take other steps.

“Cities have many policies they do have control over, which is buildings, especially energy-efficient buildings, transportation, land use that do have a very major impact on air quality and public health.”

The study finds some cities are improving air quality through different policy measures. For example, city officials could ban the use of coal for space heating in buildings. Clean fuel could be used to produce electricity. And motor vehicle engines could be improved.

The survey notes that Copenhagen, Denmark and Bogota, Colombia have reduced air pollution levels through what is called “active transport”. That includes increasing urban public transportation and urging people to walk or ride bicycles instead of driving. I’m Christopher Cruise.

Thanks, Chris. And thank you for spending some time with us today. There are 2 more Learning English programs coming your way just seconds from now. Then at the beginning of the hour, you can hear a complete world newscast. I’m Jim Tedder in Washington. This is VOA.