“And please, do not leave Somalia”
Mogadishu is quiet.
We drive past row after row of small businesses, nestled among shattered buildings and piles of rubble.
I’m strongly reminded of Haiti, in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Except that people did this. The homes have been shot at, the theatres and shops shelled.
We arrive at the Save the Children feeding centre. The last time I saw our work in Mogadishu, our feeding centres were temporary tented structures, now they are concrete.
I’m surprised to see a young man sitting with our health team, holding his baby on his lap. All around him are women holding children – he is the only man.
“He needed medicine and food. But we had none”
The man’s name is Asman, and he is here with his son, Said Ali.
“My wife has just given birth,” Asman explains.
“It was a long and difficult delivery, and she is still so weak. She could not walk here, even though we are not far away.
“But I know this is important – for Said Ali, and for me.”
I look at Said Ali, squirming in his father’s lap, clutching a pack of high-energy peanut paste. He seems healthy now, giggling and chewing on the food.
“He had diarrhoea and a fever,” Asman tells me.
“It took hold quickly. It was so scary, watching him get more and more ill.
“I knew that he needed medicine and food. But we had none.”
It’s a familiar story. Parts of Somalia have no access to healthcare at all, let alone therapeutic food and medicine for malnourished children.
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“They just exist”
“We were living in Lower Shabelle [southern Somalia],” Asman continues.
“There are many problems there, gunfire and fighting among them. We could hear gunfire sometimes, which was terrifying for the children.”
Asman looks at me thoughtfully and continues in a slow, calm voice.
“There are no clinics, no school. Our children have no future there. They grow up without hope.”
He pauses for a long time and I almost ask him another question when I hear him say quietly “they just exist”.
Said Ali sneezes noisily and Asman wipes his nose tenderly.
“If Save the Children were not here, I do not know what we would do.”
“Many would have died”
“We know of Save the Children’s work, even in places they do not work in. I am grateful for the food they have given my son, and the family ration they have given us.
“If you tell me that Save the Children will leave Mogadishu I would say to you that many would die as a result.
“I think that many would have died if they were not here.”
I thank Asman for his time, and shake his hand.
I tell him that I hope funds will continue to come in, so we can continue our vital work here.
Suddenly he stands up.
“You are from Save the Children, yes? Then I say thank you. And please, do not leave Somalia.”