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Somalia: giving birth in a flood, a mother and baby lost

I stand by a pool of stagnant water. It looks fairly innocuous – dirty and strewn with rubbish, but harmless

It’s hard to believe that just days ago this water came rushing through Sigale Camp, leaving destruction behind it.

The community leader is talking me through the challenges the people there are facing. He beckons to an older woman standing nearby, with a young girl hiding behind her skirts.

Nuria’s story

Her name is Nuria, and she came to Mogadishu months before. She wants to tell me about her daughter, and her experiences in the floods.

I instinctively look down to the young girl whose hand she is clasping. “No, no” Nuria says softly “my daughter was her mother”.

Nuria who lost her daughter Sophie with Shamso, Sophie's surviving child

“My daughter, Sophia, was heavily pregnant when the rains started, she was due any day. We would talk about raising the baby together.

Due to give birth

“She was worried though. She had not eaten in several days, which is very bad for a pregnant woman. There was nothing to eat. We would beg for food together, but what can you do when no-one has food?”

“That night Sophia had started to get labour pains. She was lying on the floor of the hut, and the rains were pouring in. She started pushing the baby out.

“I was with her, and five other women also tried to help. But the rains were coming down heavily and soon the waters rose and we tried to lift her, to get her out of the hut.

Raining hard

We didn’t know where we could take her, all around us were people running away from the water. All of us were carrying her, and we took her away from the flood water and put her on some higher ground.

I had Shamso, my 6 year old granddaughter, with me too”. I glance down at Shamos, but she is shy and avoids my eyes.

“I sat with Sophie and tried to encourage her, but she was exhausted and frightened by the chaos around her.

Too exhausted, too frightened,

She was too weak to finish the labour, and she started shivering with the cold. She was very wet and sick.

She was out in the rain – there was nowhere undercover to take her. She started fainting while pushing out the baby and we kept trying to wake her up”.

“After a while Sophia stopped responding to me”. Nuria pauses to regain her composure, and shakes her head forcefully. “She stopped pushing the baby out.”

Loss and desperation

That night of the rains both my daughter Sophia died, and her baby died in her. We could not save either, although we carried on trying.

I am now raising Shamso, but it is hard. I am an old woman. And Shamso misses her mother.

What will we do to survive? There is no food, no water and no shelter. I am desperate.”

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