Somalia: Far From Home, Mother Fights To Feed Family

Published on 04 November 2011

Hawa Aden and her family are among the many Somalis who have come to Galkayo to escape drought. She receives a monthly ration of food from WFP through a  food-for-work project. Copyright WFP/ Susannah Nicol 

Hawa Aden fled to central Somalia from the drought and conflict-torn south desperate for a way to support her family. Though work is scarce and settling in has been tough, she’s at least found a way to put food on the table. In exchange for monthly rations, Hawa helps to clean up the area where families like hers have settled—an important job that will help to prevent the spread of disease.

GALKAYO -- The sound of morale-boosting song rises above the clinking of broken glass, the crunching of old cans and the rustle of plastic bags as workers collect them into piles. 

Local authorities fear that with the rainy season approaching, there is the danger of disease taking hold and spreading unless the refuse is cleared. 

At the same time, people who have been forced to flee their homes due to drought – mostly women and a few men – have come to Galkayo desperate for work.  So WFP is sponsoring a new food-for-work project, clearing away the many layers of rubbish that have built up in this residential area.

These workers are all in need of help, having been displaced from their homes and, in one way or another, having feared for their lives. 

Hawa’s story

Hawa Aden is a thin, elderly lady with wise eyes.  For her, the devastating effects of drought began three years ago when her family’s livestock started to die.

There was no longer enough food to go around, so Hawa went to the town of Galkayo to try to find work.  She wasn’t able to get even casual labour and so depended on the charity of distant relatives. 

With the worsening of the drought, now all the animals back home are gone.  Her six children, two grandchildren and blind husband have now joined her in Galkayo, but the charity she has been receiving from her relations in the town is wearing thin. 

“This morning I was looking for somewhere else to live,” she said. “I had been told to leave because I couldn’t pay to stay. All my belongings are outside in the street.” 

At this point, there is only one resource she and her family can count on – the monthly ration of food she receives from the WFP food-for-work project

A long journey

Hawa Aden and her family are among the many Somalis who have come to Galkayo to escape drought, famine and conflict further south.   

“We moved to one district of Mogadishu and then the fighting extended to that district,” said a shy 24-year-old who gave her name only as Borako. “So then we moved to somewhere else where all the people had fled to, and then the fighting extended again, then I decided to move out of Mogadishu and I came here.” 

When her family arrived in Galkayo, two of the children were malnourished.  Both of them are in better health now after being treated with a fortified food called Plumpy’Sup in a nutrition centre run by WFP and its partners -- but the family is still struggling. Borako’s husband has managed to find some causal labour, but it isn’t enough. The WFP food she is now getting each month from the food-for-work activity is at least providing the family with the basics to survive. 

“We are given one and a half bags of sorgum, oil and pulses and it has served us well," she notes.

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about the author

Susannah Nicol

Spokesperson for Somalia

Susannah worked for WFP in Afghanistan for 1 year before moving to East Africa. She is based in Nairobi.