Ubtan Dahir Mohamed, 48, has been driven to begging to scrape together a meal a day for her eight children and says she is facing the most difficult point in her life.
Separated from her husband and without any income, Ubtan is living in an IDP camp in Godinlabe, south of Adado in central Somalia’s Galmudug state, where they fled for safety from the war between the Somali government and Al-Shabab.
“Some people give us money while others give us food in a bowl, whatever we get, it could be our breakfast because the little food we get from the people can’t last us for three meals a day. If we eat a heavy dinner and the children can stay until the next day, we just stay otherwise we will have to eat breakfast the next morning. We don’t know about lunch. I struggle to support my children and sometimes they stay hungry. Our situation is very hard,” she said.
Ubtan has been looking for laundry jobs but has not been lucky. She has also had to battle to keep something over the children’s heads as strong seasonal winds destroyed their shack six times in the past two months.
“We live under pieces of clothes sewn to plastic bags and they are not strong, the winds blow them apart and we have to put them back together every day. The children are hungry and cold and that’s difficult, but we rely on God,” she said.
She used to receive $60 in cash aid to buy 40 kilograms of flour, rice, sugar, and some cooking oil. However, the aid from the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) ceased in April 2023.
Ubtan joined Gargara IDP camp in June 2022 after fleeing from fighting between Al-Shabab and government forces in Qayib area in Bahdo district. She ran a small cafeteria in Qayib that made her $8-12 a day. She also had eight goats that were scattered in the gunfire.
They arrived in the camp without any food, clothing, or utensils.
“We set off walking and reached Adakibir. We walked for two nights and two days. I was with my young children and we stopped at people’s houses and slept there. When the children were rested we set off again on foot. When we reached Adakibir we got a vehicle that brought us to this area,” Ubtan explained.
Also struggling is Ali Ahmed Gedi and his wife and five children, who have lived in the camp for 11 months and are depending on neighbours for food for a meal a day.
“The situation is hard. I have small children with the oldest just 10. Neither me nor my wife work so we live on whatever the neighbours give us, we just depend on God,” he said.
After the WFP food aid stopped in April, Ali’s job earning $5-7 a day on construction sites stopped in May due to a leg injury. He could not afford to seek medical treatment for his leg.
“You can feel the pain of a parent who stays at home and can’t go to earn a living for his children and doesn’t know what to give them. We pray to God and we just stay here. We take whatever God provides us through our neighbours, but we don’t have a particular source of living that we depend on,” he said.
The family has been living in a small shack since joining Gargara camp last September after fleeing from Dhisiq-Shurufle village in Bahdo. He was previously a driver and earned a living transporting goods.
The head of social affairs in Godinlabe, Abdi-Deq Nur, told Radio Ergo that WFP aid had stopped due to lack of funding. He noted that the local administration had no capacity to help the 750 displaced families.
“Some of the families don’t have anyone working to earn a living. Some children have come here alone and their parents were arrested by Al-Shabab and we don’t know if they are dead or alive. They are living in constant worry and hardship. There are many people who came within a short time. So we now just assess them and ask the rest of the people to help those in a desperate situation,” he explained.
He said the displaced fear to return to their homes as they do not know if the fighting will start again. The camp has tapped water but no schools for the children.