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Child lost as rains hit famine ravaged Somalia

Channel 4 News 
Monday, October 24, 2011

Heavy rains in Mogadishu have swept away makeshift camps housing people fleeing from famine. Channel 4 News hears from a charity worker who met a woman whose daughter was lost in the deluge.

After three months of famine in Somalia, heavy rains have begun to fall.

While the rain brings hope for the harvest, it is a further hardship for families living in temporary camps after fleeing the drought and famine in their own areas.

Many are living in temporary camps near the capital Mogadishu, which has seen particularly heavy rain in recent weeks. As well as the risk of disease, there are reports of flooding and even of children being swept away in flash floods.

Save The Children's Catherine Carter was in Sigale Camp near Mogadishu, and she met one of the women who lost her child in the downpour. She sent this blog about the encounter.

Lost child

Wednesday was my first day in Mogadishu and I spoke to Jamila (pictured above left), a quiet woman resting her young daughter on her hip.

I asked her about the rains last week – was she here? What does she remember?

Her unexpected and tragic story will stay with me for the rest of my life.

"Yes I remember," she said.

"I lost my daughter, my wonderful daughter Maryama."

Raw grief

I am immediately gentler in my approach – working with pain this raw is a dangerous privilege, and I am suddenly very aware that I may be intruding on a private grief. Jamila speaks softly, and assures me that she wants to tell me about her daughter and that night.

"She was just four years old. Maryama was already very weak – we had not eaten for some time. The rains were very scary. It came so suddenly. It even rose above my knees.

"It was night-time and suddenly we all woke up, we were already under water a bit. The water level rose too fast. I did not know what to do, I had never seen water do that before.

"I saw my daughter Maryama trying to help her younger sister Aliyow – trying to raise her head above the water."
Jamila pauses, and shifts the small child on her hip – it is Aliyow.

"It was chaos. Our hut was torn with the rain, pieces were being ripped away. The water rose inside. I tried to find my other children but all around me people were pushing and running away from the water. Suddenly Maryama went under the water. I saw the water rush through her nostrils and her mouth and then she was gone. The water was rushing so fast it carried her body away.

"I screamed and tried to run after her. The last thing I saw of her was as her body hit the fence on the side of the camp."

Memories of Maryama

A translator is with me, clearly moved by what he is hearing. For several minutes neither of us can speak. The scene is so emotionally charged that I can't bear to leave. I ask Jamila what she remembers most about Maryama.

She smiles.

"She would sit and play with her sister and then when she saw me she would cry out for me to join them in the games. She was always smiling and running around."

She pauses, and her face falls again.

"I have nothing to remind me of her. Everything was lost with the rains. All that I can see now is her body hitting the fence as she was swept away."


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