“If we didn”t leave, we would die’
July 20, 2011
Story of Shangara Hassan, a Somali woman who traveled to Dadaab refugee camp with her four children.
âI think I am twenty years old. I have four children â two of them are very sick and two of them are OK. The oldest is six years and the youngest is six months.
"I have come to Dadaab from a village in southern Somalia. I came with my children, alone, to save our lives. There was a very bad drought there â it hasnât rained for four years, and everything was very dry. Nearly all of our animals had died because there was no food for them to eat. We used to keep small animals â goats and sheep. What few we have left my husband has stayed to look after. Once they are dead he will come here too. We used to have nearly sixty but now there are less than ten.
"On our plot in our village we used to grow sorghum and that is what we used to eat. But because there has been no rain, the sorghum hasnât grown. The ground has become very dry and the seeds donât even come up anymore.
"Nobody has seen a drought like this for many years. Everyone in our community in Salag is leaving. All of my neighbors left at about the same time as me and they are living around me here in Dadaab. The only people who are remaining are the ones who still have a few animals alive to look after but I think they will all come here soon.
"There was hardly any water left to drink either. We used to get our water from a nearby stream but this had dried up. There was no water point in our village. So when the stream dried up we started to walk to a river that was a long way from our village to collect water to drink, wash and cook. It would take me about two hours to walk there and three to walk back when my container was full. It was very hard work because it was so hot. I canât remember when it has been that hot in Somalia before.
"My husband decided that we had to leave when we hadnât eaten for over a week. He said if we didnât leave we would die.
"We arrived here about two weeks ago now. We walked from our village to the border and then we got a bus along with other people from our village. When we arrived in Dadaab we went to a reception point and were given some maize, sleeping mats and some other things. We had nothing with us. I couldnât carry anything when we left because I had the four children.
"But now all of that food is gone. We are meant to go and be registered now so that we can get food regularly. But I have been there twice now and each time I have been told that I have to come back another day because there are too many people waiting to be registered.
"My second born child, Habiba, is very sick and my third born is starting to get sick. Because I havenât registered I donât think I can go and find them medical help. I donât know where to go to find them a doctor as this camp is very big.
"Also if I go with one child, I donât have anyone to leave the other children with. I am also breastfeeding my youngest and if I carry her, I canât manage to carry Habiba too. Her condition is getting worse every day and I donât know what to do. I am worried that all of my children may get sick soon because we are only eating once a day as we only have very little maize left.
"But even though it is hard here, it is better than what we left behind.â