It has been a long journey for both of them, a 7 years journey for her, but an even longer 8 months journey for him.
At 13, she had seen death and destruction, the booming sound of mortars, the staccato of machine guns, the dead, still, unmoving in the streets, the whispered conversations, tinged with sorrow, between her parents of loved ones lost in a war that she did not understand but which was raging around her. The only thing that she heard was that the government was fighting with the Islamic Courts Union. Why? Her young mind did not know.
She did not want to be confined to her home, with her parents admonishing her not to go out and to lie flat on her stomach every time there was shooting. All she wanted was to go out and talk with her friends, discuss things that are important to 13 years old girls. Like dresses and henna.
And one day, during a period of intense fighting, she had enough and she took a decision, a decision that a 13-year-old girl should not have to make. And that decision was to walk away from the chaos, and the noise, and the fear and the stench of death that was always in the air. And she found herself in a group heading north.
She had heard of the north, a place where they were no mean looking men with guns, where small girls did not have to lie on their stomachs every time there was shooting, a place where people were happy and laughing and friendly. And her heart desired to live in such a place. She found herself in a vehicle heading north, surrounded by people who had also had enough of the fighting and wanted normal lives for themselves. And they were kind to her, providing her with food and protection and taking care of her as they would of their own children on that journey of 4 days.
It was a long journey, over rough roads. The landscape changed from what she was used to- ocean breeze and the expansive ocean to acacia trees and scrubland. And for every kilometre the vehicle covered, she moved further away from the noise of war.
When she reached Garowe, the group she was in took her to an IDP camp, a sprawling camp with temporal housing, populated by people like her, fleeing the conflict. And a kind family took her in and provided for her as their own. She learned to be useful, helping around, doing household chores. And it was nice, and quiet and peaceful. And there were no guns and angry, mean looking men.
She found peace and love. At the tender age of 17. She got married and had a child, Shuakh. And as she looked at the innocent face of the child, she was so happy that the child was born in a place of peace. After three years, she got another child, Abdi Hakim and her joy was complete.
But life was hard. She had fled Mogadishu at 13, with no education and the only skill she had was washing clothes and utensils in the camp for other people. The work was there at times. Other times it was not there and she and her husband struggled to provide for themselves and for the children. And then she lost love; he walked away and never came back, leaving her with two young mouths to feed and not enough work and money to properly take care of them.
She mourned the loss of her first love. But she had young children to take care of. She got up, dusted herself, gritted her teeth and made a vow that Shuakh and Abdi Hakim will never suffer as long as she was alive. She looked for work, and when she got it, she did it well. But the money was not enough and she was not eating well, neither was Shuakh or Abdi Hakim.
And then one day he started coughing, deep, wracking coughs. And he had diarrhea. And he grew weak and small. Too weak to suckle. She worried about him and prayed that he would live and she asked for help and advice. A kind neighbour mentioned of a hospital in Garowe that took in sick children and treated them and gave them food.
She left Shuakh in the care of a neighbour and took Abdi Hakim to this hospital. She was met with kindness and compassion and care and within a week, Abdi Hakim was playing and suckling and happy. She took him back home and hoped that the worst was over.
Jobs were still hard to come by. Food was hard to find. She was not eating well herself and did not have enough milk for Abdi Hakim. He was always so hungry and tiny. And one day, it started all over again. The diarrhea and the coughing, and the crying, and the attempts to suckle but not getting enough milk. He did not even have the energy to suckle anymore.
But this time round she knew what she had to do and where she could get help. The kind neighbour took care of Shuakh again and she took the Abdi Hakim to the hospital. And like the first time, she was well received and they started treating Abdi Hakim. The diarrhea stopped and the cough went away.
She looked at him sleeping by her side, so small. Weighing 4.6 kilos at 8 months. But she was happy that he had gained weight as he had come in at 4.4 kilos. But he is a fighter, Abdi Hakim is. And he will grow to be a big strong man, who will go to school and learn new things and get a job and take care of himself and his family and never have to suffer like her.
For the first time in a very long while, she was also eating well as the hospital also provided her with food. She worried about Shuakh but was grateful for the community and kind neighbours and knew that she would be fine.
The kind doctors and nurses had explained to her that Abdi Hakim had whooping cough and diarrhea because he was not eating well. But they were going to keep him in hospital and give him special milk that will increase his weight from that of a newborn baby to one of a healthy 8 months old boy.
It had been a long journey for her, and Abdi Hakim. But she was determined to create a better life for him and Shuakh and she was hopeful that she would be able to do that. She heard that the help she was getting was from World Vision, and she was very grateful that there exist organizations like this that come to the help of vulnerable children like hers.
She was also informed that once Abdi Hakim made a full recovery, the organization will continue to provide him and Shuakh with food for another 6 months. And that made her heart jump with joy because her everyday worry was food. Food for Abdi Hakim, and Shuakh and herself. She had tried, she works hard, but still struggles to provide adequate food for her two children. All she needed was some support and she would eventually be able to feed herself and the children. And she was ever so grateful for that support.
She had travelled a long distance to be safe. She loved Shuakh, she loved Abdi Hakim. They had long journeys ahead of them, journeys that would see them grow up, form friends, go to school, get jobs, get married. She wants to be with them on this journey.
But they need food. She will have food for Shuakh and Abdi Hakim for six months. But she is not sure what will happen after that. But she lives in hope, and she is not afraid of getting her hands dirty and she knows it is going to be well.