By Muzaffer Baca*
Mogadishu, December 6, 2011—Eight-year-old Naima is one of many small children in Korson Camp, near the Somali capital, who undertake adult tasks to help their internally displaced families.
I met Naima on a recent trip I made to Korson Camp, where thousands of Somali families have sought refuge and relief from historic drought, hunger, and political violence. The drought is the worst in 60 years in this region and is affecting the entire Horn of Africa.
Naima was standing in line, waiting to add her fingerprint to a food distribution document to ensure her family would have food to eat.
This important responsibility fell to the little girl in the absence of her father and older siblings, who, with the onset of the rainy season, hoped to raise crops in a far-off village, and of her mother, who had just given birth to her eleventh child and was in need of treatment and care.
International Blue Crescent (IBC), which I serve as vice president, provides monthly food packages and other relief aid, including hospital assistance and care for severely malnourished children and mothers with newborns, to the displaced in and around Mogadishu, Afgoo, and Bay Bokool.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is partnering with us in this work. Together with our local implementing partners, we are assisting thousands of families and individuals affected by the crisis in Somalia and the region.
Naima missed school in order to bring food, water, and medicine to her mother. She even went to the camp’s health center to look for brochures that deal with maternity issues so she could share these with her mother and protect her from disease.
Because the bags of wheat flour, rice, and other staples were too heavy for Naima, my colleagues and I carried them to her family’s tent. There, we saw four small children plus the newborn lying on the one bed, and hundreds of flies swarming around the baby. All of the children were younger than Naima.
We met Naima’s mother, Mariam Ali, but didn’t ask her how she planned to care for all of her children or what future awaits them. We were sure she didn’t know either.
Mariam gave us permission to take Naima to the psychosocial center, where the child had been attending classes before her father left two weeks earlier and her mother delivered the new baby. Naima’s teacher had allowed Naima to temporarily miss her lessons because of her new responsibilities.
When we arrived, the children were singing a sunny, patriotic song. Naima declined to join in. She seemed reticent to believe that the good and peaceful future the song promised was possible.
For children like Naima, who at a young age must carry the heavy responsibility of caring for their families amid hunger and violence, there is little room to think of the future. First they must survive.
You can help the children and their families in IPD camps in Somalia and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa, where drought and violence threaten millions. Your gift to International Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #982450, is urgently needed. Please earmark your check “Horn of Arica Crisis.”
*Muzaffer Baca is vice president of International Blue Crescent, an UMCOR partner in Somalia, Turkey, and elsewhere.