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 Saturday 12 September 2009
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SOMALIA: Hassna Qassim, "I cannot remember the last time we had more than one meal a day"

Photo: Said Afrah Hagai/IRIN
Hassna Qassim with her grandchildren outside their hut at an IDP camp in Jowhar
JOWHAR, 8 September 2009 (IRIN) - If she is lucky, Hassna Qassim, 58, returns at the end of the day to her makeshift shelter in a camp for the displaced with 1kg of rice to share with her five grandchildren. Qassim is one of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) struggling to survive under extremely difficult circumstances in the Somali town of Jowhar, 90km north of the capital, Mogadishu. When her daughter abandoned the children a year ago, Qassim took on the task of caring for them. Her oldest grandchild is eight while the youngest is 18 months old, yet she has to leave them alone for long hours every day. Qassim spoke to IRIN on 8 September:

"We used to live in Shiirkole area [south Mogadishu] but when the Ethiopians [soldiers deployed in the country to assist the federal government] came, it became one of the most dangerous places in Mogadishu; there was fighting every day. It became impossible to stay.

"The road to Jowhar was the closest to us, so we took it and came here.

"I don’t know what happened to my daughter but she just left them [the children]. Now I have to take care of them. I don’t have anything to give them so every day I have to leave them and look for work.

"I don’t like leaving them but I have no choice if I am to find food for us. I either leave them and look for work or we starve. The eight-year-old looks after the others.

"I go to town every day. Sometimes I wash people's clothes. If I can't find any work, I collect grass and sell it to livestock owners.

"Most days I find enough for the night's meal. I cannot remember the last time we had more than one meal a day.

"But there are nights when I put the children to sleep with nothing. In the last two weeks, a Somali man in Galkayo, who heard about us, sent me US$100. I have never seen $100 before but it was a Godsend. The last two weeks the children have been eating every day.

"But life is often very hard and is not getting any better. It seems every year things are getting worse. Just when I think that things will improve, they get worse.

"My grandchildren have never known peace and they may never know it. All I can do is pray and hope that peace will come so we can return to our homes and lives."


Theme(s): (PLUSNEWS) Children, (PLUSNEWS) Food Security, (PLUSNEWS) Refugees/IDPs


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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