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"We fled for our lives to Mogadishu": Somali famine victim

English.news.cn   2011-08-22 20:04:21 FeedbackPrintRSS

By Abdurrahman Warsameh

MOGADISHU, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- The family of Muse Iyow were some of the last to leave their village in southern Somalia where months of drought led to severe famine that wiped out all they had forever.

"We were living nicely on our farmland with several dozen heads of goats and cattle but rains started to decrease and eventually stopped for more than six months," Iyow, a father of four, told Xinhua at a camp in the Somali capital Mogadishu.

"Our livestock began dying one after the other, crops and grass weathered because of lack of rain. We lost all we had so like everybody else we fled for our lives to Mogadishu to get help."

Iyow's family then started their 15-day epic perilous journey on foot to the Somali capital Mogadishu, a war-zone, where Islamist fighters and Somali government forces backed by African Union peacekeepers battled for its control.

"We sold the last remaining four weak goats to use as a provision during our journey to Mogadishu. What we saw particularly our young children, saw on the way of carcases of dead animals and graves lined along the road added to our fear and will remain with us for the rest of our lives,"

Iyow's story of survival is typical of the tens of thousands of displaced people and refugees living in squalid often overcrowded camps in Mogadishu as well as other camps in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.

Maryamoy Ali's ordeal is no different as the 45-year old mother of three, left her village in southern Somalia with nothing, to walk the 150 km journey to Mogadishu after crops in their small and only farm died out for lack of rains. "We tried to weather the drought but it just worsened and worsened and destroyed our farms people were just streaming to all directions with some not knowing where they were going so we hoofed it to Mogadishu which was nearer to us than Kenya or Ethiopia," Ali said as she poured drops of water into the month of her weak youngest son outside their shelter in Mogadishu camp.

She said many of her co-villagers have not had the luck to survive, adding that some have lost their lives on the way to safety.On the way to Mogadishu many spoke about acts of compassion and sacrifice with people helping one another as they struggled to reach the Somali capital. "When we reached the main road to Mogadishu we were given lift until the next town by a stranger. He was a good Muslim. He gave my starving children some biscuits to eat and water to drink," said Dahir Yarrow, another refugee at the government-run Badbaado Camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu.

Yarrow, 38, along with his sick wife and two small children had to leave a village in Lower Shabelle Province, one of the five areas declared by the UN famine.

"I had to carry the children as they are too young to walk and help my wife walk for she has been ill for many months before the drought. It would have taken me months to get here had I not met that young motorist who took us along close to the city (Mogadishu) ," recalls Yarow who now lives in a shelter at Badbaado Camp, the biggest for drought-displaced in Mogadishu.

An estimated 100,000 people have arrived in Mogadishu from famine stricken southern Somalia during the past two months as heavy fighting raged between radical Islamist group and Somali government forces and allied AU peacekeepers before the Islamist militants were eventually forced to retreat out of the city earlier this month.

Many of the displaced people from famine-hit southern Somalia live at Badbaado Camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu but most stay in small camps scattered inside the capital. International humanitarian agencies are scrambling to assist the needy while world governments have offered assistance to help Somalia's starving.

China is the latest country to send in humanitarian assistance with a donation of 16 million U.S. dollars to the World Food Program (WFP) to support its famine-relief operations in Somalia. It is Southeast Asian country's largest single donation to the WFP to date.

The Horn of African nation, along with Kenya Ethiopia and Djibouti, is facing the most severe food crisis in African history. About 15 million are reported to be affected by the Horn of Africa drought and famine with Somalia the worst hit, 3.7 million people, almost half of the country's population, are at risk of starvation.

Editor: Wang Guanqun
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