Somalia: Bintow Hassan, "I don't see any future here"

MOGADISHU, 7 May 2007 (IRIN) - Bintow Hassan, a 40-year-old mother of six children, has been displaced for the second time in 15 years. First she fled her home region of Bakol, southern Somalia, in 1992 and then again the camp for internally displaced people after fighting in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, between Ethiopian-backed government forces and insurgents, displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Home for Hassan and her family for the past 15 years was a camp in Wardiigley, south Mogadishu. The family fled their home in southern Somalia in early 1992, at the height of the civil war.

"My children have never known another home. The camp was their home," she said. Life in the camp was hard, "but at least my husband provided us with something to eat and there were no rockets landing".

However, Hassan's husband, a daily labourer and the family's bread-winner, was killed after two rockets slammed into their camp on 24 April. "We did not have much in the camp but at least my husband used to go out everyday to find us something to eat. Now we don't even have that.

"The father of my children who supported us was cut to pieces by two rockets that landed outside the camp. He was sitting outside when we heard huge explosions.

"I did not even get to bury him because the bombardment was bad; I just ran with the children."

Hassan and her children, aged between two and 14, ran from the camp, grabbing whatever they could from their belongings, and made it to Elasha settlement on the edge of Mogadishu (15km south).

"We have been living under a big tree around Elasha. We could find no help because the people who used to help and lived in houses in Mogadishu were now like us, escaping the war.

"When villagers heard that I lost my husband to the war, they contributed some money, but we still spent days and nights under the tree.

"At night I had to do whatever I could to cover my children from the rain and chill. Sometimes we did not sleep because the rain water streamed down the tree where my children lay.

"We had nothing to eat so I decided to come back. At least in the city there are more people and they may pity me and help.

"I will have to beg. The older children also help. They go to restaurants and get the food they throw out. Sometimes they shine shoes," she said.

Hassan said the situation in the country was worse today than in 1992 when she first fled her home. "Back then people were able to help. They had something. Now no one has anything.

"Also back then the fighting was localised and less heavy and you could avoid it. Now it is much more dangerous."

Hassan said the future without her husband was bleak. "I don't know how I will cope in bringing the children up by myself.

"It is all up to God but I don't see any future here. We are all waiting to die."