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Asha Mohamed: "I will do anything"
KISMAYO, June 19, 2008 (IRIN) - In June, Asha Mohamed, 35, fled the fighting between Ethiopian-backed government troops and insurgents in the Somali capital of Mogadishu to seek shelter in a camp in the port city of Kismayo, 500 km south of Mogadishu.
Kismayo is currently home to thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled Mogadishu or who were turned back from Kenya. Mohamed came to the city with five children, aged between 18 months and 12 years, after her husband and two other children [five and six years] were killed when an artillery shell hit their home. She spoke about her plight to IRIN on 18 June:
"We used to live in Karaan [north Mogadishu]. It was safer than most places in Mogadishu, but last month [May] there was fighting in Yaqshiid [a neighboring area]. My husband worked odd jobs to make ends meet, but on that day he had to stay at home with two of our [seven] children who were sick. As usual I went to the market were I sold vegetables. We could hear the shelling at the market but we felt it was too far.
"Later in the day one of my neighbors came running to tell me that our home had been hit and that my husband and two children were dead. I did not want to believe that it was true but in my heart I knew it was true.
"The house was totally destroyed and my neighbors had to collect some of my children's limbs so we could bury them. I was unable to do anything, so my neighbors did everything. We buried them that afternoon.
"After the burial I decided to leave with what was left of my family. I left with what little money I had and contributions from the neighbors. I had to take my children someplace safe. Mogadishu was not safe for us anymore.
"I had heard that many of our former neighbors had found safety in Kenya, so I decided that we should seek refuge in Kenya.
"The journey was long and it took us five days to get to Kismayo. There were so many roadblocks manned by militias and every time they stopped us they took money. They also robbed us of anything valuable they saw.
"By the time we reached Kismayo I had nothing to give my children. The truck dropped us on the street and left. We were exhausted, frightened, had nothing and could not even reach the border [with Kenya].
"I am now alone with five children in a strange town. The people here [in the camp] have been very kind. Each family gives us a little of their food. That is all I have to give them.
"We were poor but my husband and I always tried to make sure that they did not go to sleep hungry. Now, how do I tell a small child that his mother does not have food to give him? There are nights that I start a fire and pretend I am cooking something until they fall asleep.
"I am not the only one doing this. There are many mothers in Somalia today who are doing the same thing. We have no choice. I will do anything - even if I have to beg or sell myself to keep them safe. They have no one else.
"Sometimes I daydream that my children have grown up and have become very important people taking care of me. I pray for a miracle to make it true."