In the past two decades, more than a million people have been forced to flee the fierce fighting and chronic drought that has plagued Somalia. In our special Somalia series, seven Somalis displaced in their country speak candidly of the daily challenges they face in the camps they now call home.
In 2006, Ethiopia invaded Somalia. Caught in clashes between the Islamic Courts Union and the Ethiopian armed forces, who were supporting the then Somali Transitional Federal Government, two of Fatuma’s eight children were killed.
Fighting that year went on to claim the lives of another three of Fatuma’s children.
In December 2006, Fatuma fled and, with the help of kind strangers who agreed to take her on the road in their truck, she found herself at Musbah camp.
She’s been there ever since. Musbah camp is one of two camps established near Mogadishu for those displaced by the fighting. Her daughter Habiba lives in Camp Elaasha, 10 kilometres away. They were separated during the fighting but reunited in 2011 during the food crisis that hit the Horn of Africa and northern Somalia.
Despite some help from her neighbours, she often goes to sleep hungry. In an effort to generate some income, Fatuma travels daily to Mogadishu to wash clothes – but much of the money she makes goes on transport there and back.
"With no resources to rebuild their lives, people living in these camps are the poorest and most deprived of Somalia," Fatuma said.
Dreams shattered, Fatuma said she feels hopeless and is simply waiting to die. Her life, she said, was shattered when she was 30 years old and her husband died leaving her with eight children to support. In this situation, she said their eldest son had no choice but to join a militia to help support his family. At one point Fatuma wanted to settle in Kismayu with her son, but they were both threatened.
"In the camps, women are really vulnerable"
Most women live there alone with their children.
"A camp is not a house, there is no door. A man can go at any time and do what he wants without ever being punished."
According to Fatuma, while assault cases are not common, women still live in fear – a fear reinforced by incidents in the camp. "Almost every night, we are awakened by the cries of women being chased by bandits."
Over the past 20 years, we’ve worked in Somalia without interruption to help people like Fatuma through these difficult times.
But so far, the international community and the various Somali authorities have not fulfilled their responsibilities to families in urgent need – especially women and children. The safety, dignity and basic human rights of the 1.1 million people displaced inside Somalia urgently need to be protected. Find out more