Crossing to Safety: One Woman’s Story of Arriving in Dadaab from Somalia

Fatuma Ali, an expectant mother of four says she would want to plan her family and have children she can care for
  • 01 September 2011

DADAAB, Kenya — When Fatuma Ali together with her husband decided to begin a trek from Somalia to Kenya with their four children, they knew the journey would be torturous. But it was one that they had to take.

Pregnant with her fifth child, Fatuma could hardly withstand the situation in Somalia -- a ravaging famine on top of one of the world’s most enduring conflicts. The punishing 17-day journey through the sandy desert into Kenya left her feet sore.

“I am pregnant and I needed food, and I needed to go to the hospital, and I couldn’t get all these in Somalia because there, hospitals don’t work and there is no food, only war and hunger. We heard people say we could be helped here in Dadaab and we decided to come. At one time I could not walk because my feet were swollen and had sores,” says Fatuma.

Dadaab in Northern Kenya is the world’s largest refugee camp, with a population of 500,000. In July, about 1,500 Somalis were arriving in Daadab every day. Outside her family’s makeshift tent Dadaab, Fatuma narrates her story of endurance. She smiles even as she recounts the ordeal.

“I was so hungry I thought I would die”

“Any time we came across the police in Kenya, they threatened to take us back to Somalia. I was afraid because I had heard stories of women and girls being raped on their way to Dadaab. I thought I would die through the journey because I was so hungry. My children were even hungrier and my husband and I took turns in carrying them on our backs,” Fatuma says.

Today, Fatuma can access emergency antenatal care services at Hagadera clinic, a facility run by the International Rescue Committee, a UNFPA partner. In addition, Fatuma has been able to get advice on reproductive health whenever she visits the clinic. UNFPA has provided IRC and other partners with emergency reproductive health supplies to meet the needs of approximately 600,000 people in the area. Fatuma and almost 4,000 women have received UNFPA’s hygiene kits, which include soap and sanitary towels.

“I have been going to the clinic here in Hagadera and when I go there I am given treatment and, now I know I will be able to deliver my child alive and healthy,” she says.

Staring into the skies, pondering the future, Fatuma says she would want to plan her family so that she is able to care for them with the little resources she has, saying she doesn’t know how long she will stay in the camp.

“I don’t know how long I will be here in the camp, but I don’t want to give birth any more here. I will not be able to care for all these children, because my husband doesn’t have a source of income. We rely on relief food. But I am not the problem, men are the problem because they want many children to guard against calamities,” says Fatuma.

But when all is said and done, her story is that of endurance amidst the agony and the suffering many women are forced to go through as famine continues to ravage Somalia pushing many families into camps to seek help.

Executive Director to visit Dadaab and surrounding host communities

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, will be visiting the area to bring attention the urgent needs of women, like Fatuma, who affected by the famine in the Horn of Africa.

He will visit Dadaab refugee camps and the surrounding host communities in Garissa on 2-3 September. During his visit, he will emphasize the importance of addressing the urgent needs of pregnant and lactating women, prevention of sexual violence and treatment of its survivors among refugees and host populations to partners, government officials and stakeholders.

Through local partners in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti, UNFPA is providing supplies including reproductive health care kits to hospitals, primary health care facilities and communities. Clean delivery kits are distributed to most vulnerable pregnant women among affected communities to ensure clean and safe deliveries. The Fund has also trained midwives and other health workers and provided them with the necessary medical supplies for improved quality care. Hygiene supplies are also being provided to most vulnerable women and girls to cover their unique needs and maintain their dignity.

— Kenneth Odiwuor for UNFPA

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