Nuurto Aweys: "When you are hungry you will eat anything that does not eat you"

In July, Nuurto Aweys, 30, fled fighting between Ethiopian-backed government troops and insurgents in Mogadishu and sought shelter in a camp for the displaced in Arbiska area, 20km south of the capital. The area hosts hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Aweys left her Mogadishu neighbourhood after it became a battle zone and arrived in Arbiska with eight children, aged between one and 14 years.

Two of her children, aged two and three, died recently in the IDP camp after heavy rains destroyed their flimsy shelter. She spoke to IRIN about her plight on 15 September:

"We used to live in Yaaqshid [north Mogadishu] in a part of the district that was not so bad compared with other places. Besides, we had no money to flee. Everything I made in the market we ate, so we had nothing left. Three months ago, there was so much fighting that resulted in the deaths of many people in my area that I decided it was not possible to stay. I could not go out to do the odd jobs I used to do to earn some money and my children were slowly starving.

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"I heard that many people went to Arbiska and were safe and were being helped. So since we did not have money for transport, we walked to Arbiska.

"I came to Alrahim Camp [IDP camp] where some of our former neighbours had found safety. My children were very weak. We did not have much to eat for days. My neighbours gave us some food but it did not last very long.

"Since my arrival here I have not received any food rations. I was told I missed the last distribution. I depend on help from neighbours but sometimes they also don’t have anything to give or eat.

"I go out into the fields and collect Kable and Bukurey [wild foliage] to cook for the children. It is not food but when you are hungry you will eat anything that does not eat you.

"We built a makeshift shelter and were hoping to get plastic sheeting to cover it to protect us from the rains.

“However, the rains last week [4-6 September] were so heavy they washed everything away. We were sitting in an open area for over 18 hours with the rains coming down hard.

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"My children were already weak, but Awliyo [a two-year-old girl] and Mohamed [a three-year-old boy] were the weakest. They had been ill and so died in the rain. When the rains came, we had nowhere to shelter and they just died.

"I am now wondering what will become of the others. I left Mogadishu hoping to get some peace and safety but I brought my children to death. I am not the only here who lost children. Many mothers are like me.

"Now even this place does not feel safe. No food, no shelter and I cannot find any work. Every day I am cooking Kable or Bukurey. I have no choice.

"My life in Mogadishu was very hard but this one is worse. Even with all the fighting I had all my children, now two are gone. I don’t know when all this suffering will stop. God will help us."

ah/mw