In September 2019, Mariam Farah Hussein, her husband and seven children fled Mogadishu for Bosaso, on Somalia's northern coastline. The family left their home during shelling on their neighbourhood that subsequently hit and destroyed their home completely.

“I lived in constant fear. There were a lot of explosions every day. People were killed every day, murdered – anything could happen. Because of this fear we decided to flee.”

“We have seen a lot of problems. When I left my home, it was hit by bombs. I suffered when I was travelling. After I arrived here, I forgot all my problems and fears. I feel safe.” 

Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC
Somalia

She fled from one of the world’s most dangerous cities

Mariam and her family managed to get out of their house in Mogadishu before it was hit by mortars. After the attack they fled to Bosaso, where they now feel safe for the first time in many years.

We met Mariam Farah Hussien, 40, and her family two weeks after they arrived in Bosaso, northern Somalia in September 2019. She told us that the area they lived in had been hit with mortar fire. They barely managed to get out of their house before heavy shelling left it in ruins.

The family embarked on a long and strenuous journey to the northern part of the country. They had friends who had previously fled to Bosaso, and they persuaded Mariam and her family to do the same. The friends also let them stay in a room in their makeshift house in a refugee camp.

Air photo of Mogadishu. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC
Read caption Mogadishu from the air. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

Mogadishu has been ravaged by war and conflict for almost 30 years. The armed group Al Shabaab carries out frequent attacks in the capital targeting government entities where civilian suffer collateral damage, and no-one can feel safe. When we visited Mogadishu in the autumn of 2019, there were daily reports of attacks in the capital. In December, at least 78 people were killed and at least 125 injured in one of the bloodiest attacks in several years.

Almost 700,000 people were displaced in 2019

In 2019, 188,000 people fled their homes due to violence and conflict in Somalia, according to recent figures from the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. Another 479,000 were displaced due to drought and floods. In total, more than 2.6 million Somalis have been displaced inside their own country, making Somalia one of the countries with the most internally displaced people in the world.

Puntland and other regions in Somalia's north have a very harsh climate. Recurrent drought has depleted the livestock and other resources of many families and caused crop production in many parts of the country to drop to their lowest since 1995. The Famine Early Warning System Network, a USAID-funded mechanisms monitoring food insecurity in 28 countries, projects that 2.1 million people in Somalia will be facing crisis levels of food insecurity by the end of the year. Somali people displaced by drought report that the rivers they would depend on for water have not received sufficient rain through 2019 so far, leaving them without water for their families and livestock. While NRC and other humanitarian organisations improve access to water through boreholes, needs across the country are enormous and funding too limited to meet them. With more humanitarian funding for Somalia, water points could be delivered in closer proximity to the communities that need them, preventing the loss of livestock and ongoing waves of displacement.  

Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC
Read caption Years of continuing drought have made this scarred landscape even dryer. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

This has led to massive humanitarian needs. A large number of people have been fleeing to urban areas due to the prolonged drought, and many of them come to the camp where Mariam and her family have sought refuge. There is seldom enough humanitarian aid, and many are vying for the few jobs available.

Struggling to send their children to school

Mariam has some occasional cleaning jobs and also sells any litter she can collect to people who find ways to repurpose it. Her husband, Abdikadir, doesn’t have a job. Without an income, their children cannot attend school. Mariam took her children to school, but they were sent home because they didn’t have a school uniform.

Mariam Farah Hussein, 40, fled from Mogadishu to Bosaso with her husband and seven children a week ago because of violence. They left when their neighbourhood was hit by shelling and managed to escape shortly before their own house was hit and destroyed completely.

The family had friends that had already fled to Bosaso and recommended they do the same. The journey was hard, especially for the children. They travelled for two weeks. In Bosaso they were lucky to be able to share borrow shelter in the camp from their friends. Mariam wants her children to go to school, but has been unable to enrol them as they don't have uniforms. She intends to do everything she can to afford to ensure her children can access education. 

Mariam is currently earning some money working as a cleaner, but it is difficult to get enough work. Her husband has not been able to find a job.

“I lived in constant fear. There were a lot of explosions every day. People were killed every day, murdered – anything could happen. But no-one from my family was killed. Because of this fear we decided to flee.”

“I don’t have school uniforms for my children. If we get support, I want to send my children to school. If we don’t get support, I will pay for them one by one when I have the money.

“When I was there [Mogadishu], I was very afraid. But now I feel safe. Being here is better than there.

“We have seen a lot of problems. When I left my home, it was hit by bombs. I suffered when I was travelling. After I arrived here, I forgot all my problems and fears. I feel safe.”

Children:
Fartuun Abdikadir Mohamed – 15 (green)
Muna Abdikadir Mohamed – 14 (blue/green)
Jijo Abdikadir Mohamed – 13 (brown)
Run Abdikadir Mohamed – 10 (red)
Hassan Abdikadir Mohamed – 9
Zam Zam Abdikadir Mohamed – 3

Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC
Read caption Mariam and her seven children at their new home in Bosaso. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

“I want my children to go to school, but I still have not been able to buy school uniforms. I hope we will receive help so they can go to school. If not, I’ll save as much as I can so they can start school, one by one. But it will take a long time before I can afford uniforms for all of them,” she says.

Finally feels safe

Although Mariam, her husband and their seven children face great challenges after fleeing their home in Mogadishu, she has no doubt that it was the right choice.

“When the children went to school, I was afraid that they would be injured in bomb attacks,” Mariam recalls. When my husband went to work, I was worried about him. And when I went to the market, I was afraid of being attacked myself.”

 
Mariam Farah Hussein, 40, fled from Mogadishu to Bosaso with her husband and seven children a week ago because of violence. They left when their neighbourhood was hit by shelling and managed to escape shortly before their own house was hit and destroyed completely.

The family had friends that had already fled to Bosaso and recommended they do the same. The journey was hard, especially for the children. They travelled for two weeks. In Bosaso they were lucky to be able to share borrow shelter in the camp from their friends. Mariam wants her children to go to school, but has been unable to enrol them as they don't have uniforms. She intends to do everything she can to afford to ensure her children can access education. 

Mariam is currently earning some money working as a cleaner, but it is difficult to get enough work. Her husband has not been able to find a job.

“I lived in constant fear. There were a lot of explosions every day. People were killed every day, murdered – anything could happen. But no-one from my family was killed. Because of this fear we decided to flee.”

“I don’t have school uniforms for my children. If we get support, I want to send my children to school. If we don’t get support, I will pay for them one by one when I have the money.

“When I was there [Mogadishu], I was very afraid. But now I feel safe. Being here is better than there.

“We have seen a lot of problems. When I left my home, it was hit by bombs. I suffered when I was travelling. After I arrived here, I forgot all my problems and fears. I feel safe.”

Children:
Fartuun Abdikadir Mohamed – 15 (green)
Muna Abdikadir Mohamed – 14 (blue/green)
Jijo Abdikadir Mohamed – 13 (brown)
Run Abdikadir Mohamed – 10 (red)
Hassan Abdikadir Mohamed – 9
Zam Zam Abdikadir Mohamed – 3

Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC
Read caption Mariam finally feels safe in her new home. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

After arriving in Bosaso, for the first time in many years, she notices that she is no longer afraid.

“Now, I can finally feel safe. In Mogadishu, I lived in constant fear. There were bomb attacks every day. Every day, people were killed. We fled because we were scared,” she concludes.

Read more about NRC's work in Somalia