Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Somalia: One mother's incredible journey to flee violence

One minute Halimo Mohamed, 40, was at home with her children, the next she was on the move, fleeing violence in Somalia's capital, after her Karan neighbourhood, in north Mogadishu, was hit by a barrage of shells, killing dozens and destroying homes, including hers.

After dodging militia, struggling to find food and sometimes being forced to walk, she and three of her five children finally arrived on 17 March at Dadaab, a refugee camp in northern Kenya.

1 March: "On 27 February I was at home with my family in Karan when a number of shells hit the area; a lot of houses, including mine, were hit. Many people were killed; others were injured. We ran in different directions. I managed to get hold of my younger children but my oldest daughter, who is 18, is still missing. I don’t know what happened to her. My 14-year-old son is also missing but I think he was taken by the militias. They had taken him before but I got him back; now I fear I will never see him again.

"We and some neighbours rented a truck to take us to the Kenyan border. I only managed to flee with a little money, Muufo [Somali bread] and water; this is all I had for my children and myself.”

2 March: "We made it to a small town near Baidao [240km southwest of Mogadishu] where we stayed because the driver was afraid to drive through militia checkpoints at night. It seemed there was a checkpoint everywhere.”

3-4 March: "The following morning, we left for Bardale, 200km away. Although we reached Bardale that night, we had to wait there for two days because the truck had broken down. We waited for it to be fixed, but this was in vain. My children were eating the Muufo and water. They did not complain because they were hungry and would eat anything.”

5 March: "Finally, we decided to walk to Luq, some 90km away.”

6 March: "After walking for most of the day, we got lucky and were picked up by a truck heading to Luq. We spent the night there. We were very tired, hungry and thirsty; the townspeople gave us water and we bought some food. My Muufo had run out by then.”

7 March: “We left for Bulo Hawo and arrived the same day; we were very excited, thinking that our ordeal was over and we would soon cross the border to Kenya.”

8 March: "We headed for the border town of Mandera but we were denied entry. They told us we had to go to Liboi; some of us cried when we found out that Liboi was as far away as Mogadishu, some 600km away.”

9-11 March: "As we had no choice, we decided to stay a while in Bulo Hawo to rest and to find someone willing to take us to Dobley [the closest Somali town to Liboi].”

12 March: "We left Bulo Hawo in a truck that was going to Dobley.”

13 March: "We spent the night in El-Waq in Somalia; by this time, the money I had could only buy us one meal a day. Sometimes we asked the people in villages we stopped at to let us buy food and we cooked it as this was cheaper than buying ready-made food. Most of my companions were also running out of everything, so we tried to support each other.”

14 March: "We left El-Waq for Dobley but the truck broke down 160km from Dobley. We had to walk again, but this time there were no villagers to help us.”

15 March: "We walked for more than a day before we saw a truck coming our way. We stood in the middle of the road and the driver had to stop. He picked us up and took us to Dobley for free; we spent the night there.”

16 March: "We then began our move towards Liboi, some 18km south. By then, we were exhausted, afraid and totally disoriented. We had no idea where we were. It is not a trip I want to do again and I wouldn't recommend anyone to make the trip I made; every time they [militias] stopped us at a checkpoint, you didn't know what to expect, and they could do anything to you.”

17 March: "Finally we were in Liboi! We went to UNHCR [the UN Refugee Agency] and got registered as refugees but we aren’t settled yet; I am staying with another family. At least now I am not afraid that someone will kill me or my children, that is all I have and I am grateful for it.

"I will pray for my son and daughter and will call relatives back in Mogadishu to look for them, but I know it is impossible to look for anyone now in Mogadishu."

Disclaimer:This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
Photo: Copyright IRIN

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