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Central Somalia conflict leaves Guriel families bereaved and bereft

Tuesday November 23, 2021

File Photo/Ergo

(ERGO) – Dahabo Isse Gutale, a widowed mother of 11 children, is struggling to pay the bills after losing her shop in Munawar market in Guriel during the recent conflict that engulfed this town in central Somalia.

Four of her children have been expelled from Jaylaani primary school as she failed to pay the $54 school fees in October. She has not paid the $35 rent for their four-roomed house either.

“We are surviving on handouts from well-wishers. The money I used to make from my shop was enough to pay all the family bills, but it has been destroyed completely,” said Dahabo, who used to make a decent six to 10 dollars a day from her small business.

Dahabo is one of 260 traders whose businesses were destroyed after an artillery shell landed on the market on 24 October during heavy fighting between government forces and Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a militia for control of the town.

The shell caused a fire that spread out of control, gutting the market and destroying other facilities in town, notably Kulmiye and Istarliin hospitals, and a repair garage and fuel depot.

Dahabo had run her shop for eight years and valued it at $3,000. She owes $500 to a woman who recently died and whose family is chasing her for repayment.

“I can’t pay that debt at the moment. The inheritors of the deceased are waiting for the money to share the wealth she left behind. Paying that debt is my biggest problem now,” she said.

Members of Galmudug administration met with the market traders in early November and assessed the damage but are yet to respond.

Guriel’s deputy commissioner for social affairs, Abdirizack Abdullahi Farah, told Radio Ergo they have started a fundraising drive aiming to restore the livelihoods of the affected families and are hoping to conclude it in December.

“We have shared our assessment report with Galmudug ministry of trade, and they shared it with international aid agencies so that they offer aid to the affected people. However, there hasn’t been any aid yet. We are now working on a plan where the locals will help each other so that the affected families don’t join IDP camps,” he said.

Many people were killed in the conflict and an estimated 100,000 were displaced.

Kadija Mohamed Dini, another small business owner, lost her eldest son, aged 32, who was killed by a stray bullet while driving his car in town. Her small restaurant and shop in the market were also destroyed in the fire. She said the loss has forced her and her eight children to rely on food she begs from her neighbours.

“We had a stable source of income, but the conflict has destroyed it. We have lost people, businesses, and everything else we had in the fighting,” she said angrily.

Kadija said she used to reply on her son, who worked as a driver, for some support whenever business slowed. The family depends solely on her now, as her husband is bed-ridden with diabetes. She valued her business at $6,000.

For now Kadija said she has no plan and can only wait hoping for some kind of assistance to enable her to get back on her feet.


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