Somali women starving themselves to keep their children alive

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Sawir/Xabiibo iyo carruurteeda/Muxyadiin Xusni Photo | Habibo and her children in an IDP camp in Baidoa/Muxyadiin Xusni/Ergo

Radio Ergo 13 April, 2017 BAYDHABO


(ERGO) - Habibo Derow Aden, 42, is trying to keep her eight children alive by eating very little herself.  In the past two months, she has lost two children - her seven-year-old daughter died on 28 February, and in March she lost her three-year-old son to diarrhoea.

Both the children died while they were still in Bula-Odey village in Dinsor district. This part of southern Somalia has been badly hit by the drought and they had no rain for the past three seasons.

Habibo believes her daughter’s condition was related to malnutrition. The family lost 23 cows to the drought and sold the last seven skinny animals for a poor price to get some cash to live on for a while.

Now they are living in an IDP camp, on the outskirts of Baidoa town in Bay region, where they settled a month ago after walking for five days from their village more than 100 km away.

“I myself hardly eat for the sake of the children,” Habibo told Radio Ergo’s reporter. “My first born is 17, and I am mother and father to the children. I go to the town every day trying to get a job so at least I can cook them something. When I fail some of my neighbours who are better off help me with some food.”

Habibo has not heard from her husband for six months, when he told her he was leaving the village to look for a job in Kismayo.

A committee supported by local businesses gave them a food package of 10 kilos of rice, 10 kilos of sugar and three litres of cooking oil in their first week in the IDP camp. Habibo eked it out for two weeks by cooking small portions for the children. She has not received anything since.

Another mother Timiro Aden Ali, 35, goes to Baidoa town every morning looking for jobs to be able to feed her eight children.

“I spend the whole day in the streets looking for a job. Sometimes I get someone who wants their clothes to be washed and whatever I get I buy food for my children, but most of the times I don’t find any work,” she said.

Her husband does the same and most days comes home empty handed.

Timiro told Radio Ergo she feels weak from hunger.

“I have not eaten anything for two days now. We do not have food for us and the children, so the small amount of food I manage to get I give to the children and it is not even enough for them,” she said.

Radio Ergo’s reporter who visited the camp said most of the displaced people appear to be women and children. Some of the men remained behind in the villages.

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