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Daily hardship remains a way of life for many children in Somalia

One year ago, on 20 July 2011, the United Nations declared famine in two regions of southern Somalia, the flashpoint in a humanitarian crisis gripping the Horn of Africa. After an outpouring of international support, the famine ended in February 2012, and countless lives across the region were saved. But 8 million people in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya remain in need of humanitarian assistance, and UNICEF’s relief efforts must continue.

By Ahmed Somali

BOSASO, Somalia, 19 July 2012 – A year after the declaration of famine in the Horn of Africa, 9-year-old Osman Adan Mohamed still faces daily hardship.

18 July 2012: Listen to Osman Adan Mohamed describe his life in a camp for the internally displaced in Somalia.


Osman was displaced by the famine that hit parts of southern Somalia in 2011. Today he lives in the town of Bosaso and works on the street as a shoe shiner to support his mother and four siblings. He does not go to school.
A constant struggle

Osman and his family were displaced from Ufurow in the Bay region last year. His father died there, and the family lost all their valuables. They were forced to walk for days in search of help.
“We were brought here by hunger. The cattle and goats we had died and my father died there. We couldn’t get any money, and there was nothing to eat, no water,” Osman said.
Though they escaped famine, their lives remain a constant struggle.
“Every morning, I go early to the shoe polishing, and whatever I get from it I take it to my mother,” Osman continued. “This work of shoe polishing is hard – the older children harass and beat me, and sometimes steal my money, and I come home with empty hands.”
When this happens, Osman’s family will go without food.

© UNICEF Somalia/2012
Osman, 9, (left) shines shoes with his brother in Bosaso, Somalia. They were displaced by the famine that hit parts of southern Somalia in 2011.

Osman’s mother, Hawa Isak, works as a garbage collector. More often than not she is unpaid for her work, but she persists because occasionally she manages to bring home a little cash.

Home for their family is a camp in East Bosaso for internally displaced people. They stay in a small hut made of boxes and sticks.

“I want to tell you that we are suffering,” Hawa Isak said. “When we fled the south, we came to live with my brother. Our farms became dry we had no food or water, and a number of our cattle and goats have been killed by famine and disease.”

Fragile progress

Many children lost their lives in Somalia’s famine, the boiling point in a humanitarian crisis that affected much of the Horn of Africa. Many families were displaced within Somalia, or were forced to flee to neighbouring countries like Kenya, Ethiopia or Djibouti.

© UNICEF Somalia/2012
A camp for the internally displaced in Bosaso, Somalia. It is home to families forced from their homes by famine last year.

Since July 2011, UNICEF, with its partners, has reached more than 455,000 malnourished children in Somalia, including 225,000 who were severely malnourished.  But the progress remains fragile.

Eight million people in the Horn of Africa remain in need of humanitarian assistance. Somalia is the worst-affected country, with a third of its population in need of assistance. In some regions of the country, one in five children has life-threatening acute malnutrition.

UNICEF’s efforts continue throughout the region and in Somalia, where basic health, nutrition and education services are being strengthened at the community level.

Meanwhile, life for Osman – many other children – remains tenuous.



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