Famine in Africa: the drama of a mother who had to decide which child to save

During two weeks with her two children walked through the desert in search of food. I could not keep the two and had to choose who to continue.

Yusuf Mohamud Ward walked for two weeks with her daughter, one year back. Hand in hand, took her son four years, while escaping from drought and famine in Somalia.

When children fainted near the end of the tour, she threw her head some of the little water that he had to revive him. But the boy was unconscious and could not drink.

The 29 year old woman sought help from other families followed suit, but none stopped. All were concerned about their own survival.

Then the mother had to make a decision that nobody would ever have to face.

“Finally, I decided to leave it behind, on the road and under God,”said Yusuf days later, during an interview at a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya.

“I’m sure he is alive, the heart tells me,”he give hope to women.

“I had never faced such a dilemma in my life,”said Yusuf.” Now I experience the pain of leaving my son. I wake at night and think of him. I am terrified when I see a kid his age.”

Dr. John Kivelenge, mental health expert of the International Rescue in Dadaab, emphasizes the extreme hardship they go through the Somali mothers and fathers.

“It’s a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. They can not sit waiting to die together,” he said. “But after a month, will suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, which means they will have memories and nightmares.”

“The image of the children they left back and harass them,” he said. “Additionally, sleep badly and have social problems,”said Kivelenge.

United States estimates that more than 29,000 Somali children under five have died from hunger in the last three months. An unknown number of children, too weak to keep walking, have been seen stranded in the dusty road, after it ran out of food and water.

Sakow Faduma Abdullahi, widow of 29 years, tried to travel to Dadaab with her baby and other children, five, four, three and two years. One day before reaching the refugee camp, his four year old daughter and her five did not wake up after a short break.

Abdullahi told bluntly that he did not want to “waste” the little water that had a five-liter container to give it to their children.

Neither want to wait too long to react, because he risked his other children also begin to die. So he stood up and walked a few steps. He returned with the hope that the children were alive.

After going back and back several times, finally decided to leave the two little ones in the shade of a tree, not knowing whether they might be saved.

More than 12 million people in East Africa need food aid before the severe drought. United Nations believes that those 2.8 million people need immediate help to save their lives, including more than 450,000 in areas hardest hit by famine in Somalia.

Jafar Ahmed Nur, 50 and father of seven children and teens, traveling with her 14 year old son and her 13 to Kenya. But after just two days of hiking were left without water. For the third day, the teens could only sit under a tree, thirsty, hungry and exhausted.

“The two boys could no longer walk. So instead of letting everyone should die there, I was forced to abandon to their fate, especially after I thought of my five children and his mother, who left it at home. I said ‘save your life for the sake of the other five. These two will be with God’, “he said with deep sadness.

“It was the worst thing that has happened in my life. It was a devastating experience to leave my children, who were part of myself,” he said. “For nearly three months, I had no mental stability. His images appear in front of me.”

Miraculously, the two teenagers were rescued by nomads, and somehow his mother returned to Somalia. But Nur says he has no resources to bring the rest of his family to Kenya.

“I was an uneducated peasant who can help me get a job now. We depend on handouts,” he said. “I keep thinking about them. Are all die, including her mother or survive, that’s what I always wonder,”he confided.

When the three year old son of Nur Elmi faqid died of hunger and thirst on the way from Somalia, his mother could only cover his body with twigs, as a tomb. He could not stop to mourn. He had five other children to think about.

Elmi was asked: “Where would she get the strength to make a grave? Just thinking how I could save other children. The same God who gave it had taken him. So I did not care much for the child dead. The lives of others were at risk.’

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