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Somalia: life on the frontline

Image: Rachel Palmer/Save the Children

Somalia: a country in the grip of extreme violence and the most severe food crisis in 60 years.

It’s one of the worst places in the world to be a child. It’s also one of the most dangerous places to be an aid worker.

Here are the voices of some of the amazing people who are on the ground, saving lives.

Sonia Zambakides, Humanitarian Director

Image: Save the Children

“We have the most incredible people. Some have worked for us for up to 20 years, through numerous government changes and insecurity, and for some this is the second food crisis.

“The fact that they can keep going, keep positive, keep reaching children is incredibly inspirational. We never do enough, but what we do makes a difference. Because of our field staff we are saving lives.

“We’ve tripled our operations to help thousands more children – for many it was the difference between life and death. The team worked continuously – installing water pumps, distributing food and delivering healthcare.”


Image: Save the Children

Abdikarim Daud Aden, Operations Director for our partner the Centre for Peace and Democracy (CPD)

“Mogadishu is one of the most unpredictable places. The biggest challenge is insecurity – it means that we can’t always get to the communities who need us.

“Landmines, stray bullets and bombs are all common. You go to work and hear bombs explode.”

“Last October, I was driving to the field with three colleagues. We were stopped by police and told not to move because we were surrounded by landmines. Mine experts removed them, but I felt my life was really in danger.

“The team’s morale is high. This is down to two things. First is a common goal – saving vulnerable children and mothers on the verge of death. The second is motivation and support from Save the Children. Every day I’m more motivated.”


Image: Katie Drew/Save the Children

Anonymous, Operations*

“What we do is very risky. My staff have been arrested and detained just doing their job. You never know if you’ll be caught in a violent clash with armed groups. I have felt in danger many times.

“If you want to be an aid worker, you have to be ready to die. Sometimes I think there is nothing stopping someone from shooting me, but we all risk our lives to save children’s lives.

“The reason I’ve stayed with Save the Children [for 21 years] is their policy and procedure – and staff security is their first priority. They always give the go-ahead in an emergency. They say, ‘Go and do it! Don’t think about the money, do it.’”

* The situation in Somalia is so fragile many of our staff must remain anonymous to keep them safe.


Cormac O’Sullivan, Emergency Operations Manager

Image: Colin Crowley/Save the Children

“We have a very experienced, knowledgeable team in place and we’re running some amazing programmes. But there is a huge potential challenge looming on the horizon – the scary prospect that the major rains won’t come in April.

“Our response is based on events that we can’t predict. Somalia is such a complex environment – we’re always trying to prepare for the unpredictable. The scenario can change within hours and that’s always in the back of your mind.

“Our work has a huge impact on the people we reach. Last October, we were able to respond very quickly to the floods in Mogadishu – giving families blankets, shelter and cooking items – in a very short period of time. It makes it worthwhile when everything comes together.”

Please donate to our East Africa Appeal so we can continue to save vulnerable children

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