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Field Diary: A mourning mother in Mogadishu

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. Freelance journalist Abdikhaadir Abdulle, in Mogadishu, Somalia, reports on those affected.

By Abdikhaadir Abdulle

MOGADISHU, Somalia, 23 July 2012 – At 50 years old, Kaltuumo Abdi Ibrahim left her life behind. She came to the capital from Dahar Village, where she had been an agro-pastoral farmer, after the drought killed her animals and crops.

A year after famine ravaged parts of the Horn of Africa, women and children who were displaced by the devastating drought share their stories.  Watch in RealPlayer


To save her six children and herself, she left for Mogadishu, where the Transitional Federal Government is located. During the crisis, many came here from the whole southern region for safety and assistance. Five of Kaltuumo’s children did not survive.

‘’Safiyo and Mohamed died in the city, while Fatuma and Ali passed away during the journey, and I don’t know the whereabouts of the fifth one,” she said. “This life is devastating, and I have nothing to ease my pain.”

Barely enough to eat

When I met Ms. Ibrahim, she was in a horrible state. It was around 10:00 in the morning on a terribly hot day in January 2012. She was wearing tattered old clothes, and she was sickly, leaning over her walking stick.

© UNICEF Somalia/2012
Kaltuumo Abdi Ibrahim was forced to come to the capital, Mogadishu, and after drought killed her livestock, crops and five of her six children.

She lives with her only surviving daughter in a plastic and grass shelter that hardly covers them from the rain and sun, at a camp in the former University of Gahayr. They barely have enough to eat.

“I have lost my children, and still the same hunger I tried to escape lingers around me,” Ms. Ibrahim said. “I was and I am anticipating some form of assistance to alleviate my dire problems, but still I am left in the cold and in the dark without help,” she told me.

‘It is too painful’

When I ask her what she will do now, she said that without animals to rear she cannot return to her farm. She asks any sympathizers to help her – she would like to go back to raising cows.

© UNICEF Somalia/2012
A displaced person stands in a camp in Mogadishu, Somalia. Tens of thousands of Somalis were forced to move from their homes when famine struck in 2011.

Still, returning home is a difficult prospect.

“To continue to live where my children have died – it is too painful,” she said.

Ms. Ibrahim is one of tens of thousands of displaced who arrived in Mogadishu during the 2011 famine, and who remain today in camps around the city. Though the famine has ended, a third of the country’s population, 2.5 million people, remain in need of humanitarian assistance.



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