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Somalia: wars may end but their effects endure

The current violence in Somalia's capital may have abated, but its effects on people's lives will undoubtedly rage on for years to come. Fardusa Wali Elmi is still living in a Puntland camp 16 years after conflict in Somalia displaced her. She tells WFP spokesperson Anja du Toit how an easily-treatable disease devastated her family as she fled unrest in 1991.

The current violence in Somalia's capital may have abated, but its effects on people's lives will undoubtedly rage on for years to come. Fardusa Wali Elmi is still living in a Puntland camp 16 years after conflict in Somalia displaced her. She tells WFP spokesperson Anja du Toit how an easily-treatable disease devastated her family as she fled unrest in 1991.

On the run from bullets and mortars, three of Fardusa Wali Elmi’s children fell ill with severe diarrhoea.

They dehydrated rapidly and died one after the other within seven days.

Fardusa and her eleven children were fleeing the war which erupted in Moghadishu in 1991. She hastily buried her children

The days my husband doesn’t work, we don’t eat
Fardusa Wali Elmi

somewhere along the route of her flight between Mogadishu and Balad. She doesn’t know where.

“Talking about it makes me feel ill,” says Fadusa. “I had three very sick children who died because I was fleeing. But we were in a war and I had to run to save their lives.”

Cut off from help

Her 10-year-old son was the first to give in after three days of severe diarrhoea, then two days later her eight-year-old daughter and lastly her seven-month-old baby boy.

There was nowhere to get help between Mogadishu and Balad. No clinics, no aid agencies… nothing. The war meant they were cut off from everything.

Fardusa’s husband was in the army and had recently been transferred to Hargeisa, in what is now Somaliland. But when the war broke out, she lost track of him and wasn’t even sure he was still alive.

Too weak to walk

“We were fleeing in a group, so some of the men helped me carry my older children, who were too weak. The ones who were not sick had to walk. We could not stop, it was dangerous. We had almost no water. People tried to help me, but all had the same problems and we were fleeing,” says Fardusa.

Her husband only got to know about the loss of his children a year later when he returned to his family, who were then in Bosasso IDP camp. She had no way of telling him before.

“He cried and cried … of course,” says Fardusa. “We are none of us OK. You never get over something like that. I told him I had been begging for food for the remaining four children in the streets ever since and we did not eat every day. He just cried and cried” says Fardusa.

Help from WFP

Fardusa now has five children and she and her family currently receive a monthly WFP family ration. Fardusa, her baby girl Wiilo, her two-year-old and her four-year-old have all been diagnosed as ‘malnourished’ and are benefiting from WFP’s supplementary feeding programme targeting children under five and pregnant and lactating mothers.

The two-year-old and the four-year-old have recovered – their body weight is now slightly above 80 percent of what a healthy child their height should weigh.

Fardusa says WFP food helps her children grow: “Before they got sick all the time…. And when they were not sick, they used to just lie quietly in the shade, because they were hungry. Now they are running around and playing. I cannot tell you the joy I have hearing them laugh and play.”

No work, no food

Although Fardusa’s husband has stayed with the family since he returned after the deaths of his three children, he has not been able to provide much of an income.

He sometimes works transporting goods by wheelbarrow to the market, but over the past few months he has hardly had any work at all.

“The days my husband doesn’t work, we don’t eat. I thank Allah for the WFP food we get now. We would not eat at all with out it,” says Fardusa

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