“We walked with our children on our backs”

Emergencies article written on the 23 Sep 2011

Jane Beesley, Oxfam International

An estimated 1.8 million women, men, and children in Somalia have been driven from their homes by the combination of famine and conflict. Since early August, Oxfam has provided clean water and sanitation for an estimated 11,000 Somali refugees in Hilaweyn camp, in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia. Three refugees in the camp share their stories:

Hussain Aden – “We walked with our children on our backs”

Hussain Aden (pictured above) and his family walked for 30 days to reach Dollo Ado from their village, Juwari. “We have a household of 20 people, including children and grandchildren,” he said. “We left due to hunger and drought. We used to have livestock. They all died: 35 cattle and 15 sheep. When the last one died that is when we decided to leave. We left our houses and came here. Before there were droughts but not like this. I don’t know when the drought will end.

Hawa Aden - “It takes me one hour to walk into town"...

“On the way we were very dusty and hungry. We had a little maize that we prepared on the way. We walked with our children on our backs… the children are small and couldn’t walk by themselves.”

Aden said one of the challenges the family faces now is the lack of opportunities to earn a decent income. “All the men want to work, but there is nothing for us. The women are collecting firewood, which they sell… [but] we are idle when we want to work.”

“I went out and collected firewood early this morning,” said Hussain’s wife, Hawa. “Normally we go at 7am and come back at 1pm. I go with a lot of other women. It takes three hours to get to the place where we collect wood.

“If I sell wood in the camp I get 5 Birr (30 cents), but if I go into town I can get 10 Birr (60 cents). It takes me one hour to walk into town and another hour to walk back. I use the money to buy tea, salt … food for the family. I get water in the camp, one jerry can a day.

“I use the water for bathing the children, preparing tea, and drinking … I have two children, both boys; they are seven and four.”

Fatima Mohammed – “I thought, now I’ll get everything I need”

Fatima Mohammed arrived in Dollo Ado with her four children. Her family was waiting in a transitional camp before moving to long-term shelter.

“We left our village because of the drought,” she said. “We’ve been experiencing drought now for three years. All the people from my village have come here. We’d heard people were coming to Dollo Ado. On the way we asked people for directions.

“I think life here compared to there will be different for us,” said Fatima. “When I arrived I felt satisfied, because I thought now I’ll get everything I need – enough food, enough water, and my children will get good medicine.”

Originally published by Oxfam International

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