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Somalia: hope in little steps

By Marion McKeone, Save the Children Somalia, Somaliland Emergency Programme

In a camp for families who’ve fled their homes, in Mogadishu, I saw a group of women with young children, waiting patiently outside a Save the Children nutrition centre.  Sheltered from the brutal heat, they clutched their registration forms and played with their children.

I watched Ayah, a young mother, barely more than a child herself, beam with pride as her baby girl Nadima, took her first unsteady steps. The other mothers, all of them holding babies or young toddlers of their own, smiled too, so contagious was her delight.

Progress in little steps

It’s a moment every mother cherishes, one of many joyous milestones that mark the progression of a young life. All too often, for a mother in Somalia, seeing your child take her first steps is more than a milestone, a moment of joy to be cherished, relived and retold. For so many like Ayah, it is a miracle that one year ago, they didn’t believe they’d ever witness.

To reach those first steps, so many Somali children have already overcome so many challenges in their short lives; drought, hunger, sickness, conflict and displacement among them.

A home among ruins

Ayah and Nadima live in a makeshift home, in an overcrowded camp, where thousands more toddlers of her age are living in similar conditions. Her mother has done her best to find a safe space in an area that was decimated by conflict but Nadima’s first steps could lead her into contact with so many more hazards – unexploded homemade bombs, human waste, broken glass. In a place like this, the list is endless.

But those fears are for tomorrow, not today.  For now the only thing that matters to Ayah is that Nadima made it this far. One year on, she’s a beautiful, smiling little picture of health. For Nadima, a little help has made all the difference.

Marion McKeone is our Media and Advocacy Manager for Somalia. These are her reflections after visiting camps for displaced  people,  and talking with  some of  the 1.36  million Somalis, mostly mothers and children, who’ve been forced to flee their homes because of conflict and drought.

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