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Fleeing Gunfire in Mogadishu - Fatuma's Story

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Thousands of Somalis have been forced to flee an ongoing military offensive in Afgooye Corridor, Southern Somalia. More than 5,000 people have arrived, many on foot and carrying nothing, into overcrowded Mogadishu.

I'm standing in Sigale camp, Mogadishu, and the trickle of people struggling in becomes a torrent. Mothers carrying children and their meagre belongings look shattered and collapse under nearby trees.

I sit with Fatuma, a young mother who has just arrived in Mogadishu. Clearly exhausted, she is slumped on a piece of concrete. As we speak families continue to pour into the camp. All around us are more families arriving into Mogadishu, some clutching small fabric bags of belongings, but like Fatuma, most ran here with nothing. Slowly, haltingly, Fatuma tells me her story.

"We were sleeping when the noises started. Shelling, bullets, loud noise. I woke up to see bullets shredding my hut and the homes around me. Everywhere was gunshots and chaos. All around me people were running. I saw families like mine, and military men, everyone running and shouting. I was terrified". Fatuma gathers pace, remembering the horror. She gestures at me, willing me to understand the chaos she found herself in.

"I gathered my children and told them to run as soon as there was a pause. I carried the two youngest, and the rest ran behind me as fast as they could."

I look at the children. They are also very tired and sit listlessly next to Fatuma. In the distance we can hear the crackle of gunfire. It's a common soundtrack to Mogadishu life, but it still unnerves me. Fatuma doesn't flinch, and she continues recounting her story.

"It did not take us too long to run here. But I was so exhausted, and my children too. There was nothing to feed them, and nowhere to take them. So we slept on the ground outside in the bush. We could not find shelter. We could not find food".

Fatuma's face changes and I can see the steely glint of a mother determined to protect her children. "I must find a way to support myself and my children. There must be some work here, I pray that it is so. I have to survive. I did not run away from those guns to die here. I will find a way to survive for myself and my children."

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