Somalia: 20 years old and already a widow
“20 years old and already a widow. It is not meant to be like this”.
I have no reply to Mariam, the gentle mother of four who has already been through so much. What can I possibly say? I can’t argue with that.
Mariam is speaking to me at a Save the Children health and nutrition site. Softly spoken and quiet, when I arrived she gently plucked at my sleeve and I sat down to talk to her.
The conversation starts with the reason she is here (her daughter Verdosa is malnourished) but quickly turns to her past.
“I am from Mogadishu, we were living there, a small family. It was hard to find food and work, but I was happy and content with my life. My husband – I do not want to speak his name – was good to me. He was calm, and kind, and took care of us.
“One day he was in the market place. He was working there – he was a casual labourer and took work where he could find it. I was at home. I had stayed there to tend to the children.
“I was heavily pregnant at the time, and already starting to worry about how I would feed another baby. But we were happy too, as a child is a gift from God.”
Why would anyone bomb people’s homes?
“There had been some shooting in our area, so we were not feeling safe in the streets but I thought we were far from the shells and bombs. Why would anyone bomb people’s homes? I could not understand it. We were not bad people.
“But the marketplace, that was the target. It was shelled.
“I was at home, and heard nothing for a while – I was still looking after my children, I was not close enough to hear the noise. Then people began to shout for me.
“I knew at once that something bad had happened. I looked for my children, they were around me. That was when I knew. But I hoped he was injured only.
“I ran to the marketplace, where they said he was. But I was too late. I was told that his body had already been taken away.
“It is hard for me to remember this because I miss him still and love him still. But it is also good to talk about him. He was a very, very good man.”
Mariam’s life now
Mariam is lost in thought for a moment, remembering her husband. She plays idly with her daughter and looks up when I ask her about her life now.
“Now? Now I survive on my own with my children. I gave birth to another baby boy soon after, but it hurt that his father would never see him.
“We left Mogadishu – how could I stay? I needed to find somewhere safe for my children, where we could get food. So we came here.
“Then the drought came and everything was harder. Animals died and food prices went up. It is better now, but still hard.”
I ask Mariam about the food she receives from Save the Children and the difference it has meant to her.
She stops and considers: “It means I do not have to beg. So thank you.”