A high price for peace in Somalia

In Burcao, Somaliland, we visited two camps where internally displaced people had fled the civil war in the south. They had escaped the daily shelling in search of peace and a place to rebuild their lives. Having lost much along the way, they arrived to find that though their daily survival here is no longer mired in war, it is equally precarious.

One of the people I talked to was a young mother of three, Croetia, 25. With her little girl on her lap, Croetia, now pregnant with her fourth child, told me how her husband had been killed in the war and how that had triggered her resolution to flee. Leaving her two other children with her mother, Croetia set out northwards, taking busses and lorries where she could get them, journeying to Burcao to make sure her baby would be born in a peaceful place.

What she encountered shocked her. There is no-one in the May 15 camp to help her. No humanitarian assistance in the form of food, water, sanitation or health services for the 275 families living in the camp. She needs food for herself and her daughter, “The last thing I heard is that my children are doing better in Mogadishu. They have food from the WFP. Though they are living amid fighting, they have food to survive. Here we have nothing,”she says.

Croetia is adamant that she is not helpless. She wants to work to support herself and her children. And yet without a husband and with unemployment at 80-90% in Somaliland, her chances of achieving that self-sufficiency are slim. For the moment she relies on her neighbours in the camp to give her food.

She is willing to admit that she needs iron for her unborn baby. Anemia is causing her body to swell and her eyes to turn yellow. She expresses the hope that her baby will be born healthy. Without any health services in the camp, and no money for iron, that likelihood is also remote. Recently, a fellow inhabitant in the camp gave birth and was left bleeding for four days before being taken to hospital.

Towards the end of my visit, Croetia’s courage withers. All of a sudden she bursts out, “I want to go back to my children, I don’t care about the fighting, I can’t live without my children.” Though it would reverse all the effort she has gone to escape the violence, I can’t quite find the reasons for why she should stay.

Read more about Oxfam's work in Somalia

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