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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.