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Eyewitness Account From Somalian Flood

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EAST AFRICA DROUGHT
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I stand by a pool of stagnant water. It looks fairly innocuous, –dirty and strewn with rubbish, but harmless. It’s hard to believe that just days ago this water came rushing through Sigale Camp, leaving destruction behind it.

The community leader is talking me through the challenges the people there are facing. He beckons to an older woman standing nearby, with a young girl hiding behind her skirts.

Her name is Nuria, and she came to Mogadishu months before. Whether she was fleeing the war or the drought, she is unwilling to say. She wants to tell me about her daughter, and her experiences in the floods. I instinctively look down to the young girl whose hand she is clasping. “"No, no”" Nuria says softly, "“my daughter was her mother”."

Slowly, and with the help of two translators (she speaks a Somali dialect), Nuria begins to tell me her story.

"“My daughter, Sophia, was heavily pregnant when the rains started, she was due any day. We would talk about raising the baby together. She was worried though. She had not eaten in several days, which is very bad for a pregnant woman. There was nothing to eat. We would beg for food together, but what can you do when no-one has food?”"

I nod. It’s an all too familiar story. Nuria continues.

"That night Sophia had started to get labour pains. She was lying on the floor of the hut, and the rain was pouring in. She started pushing the baby out. I was with her, and five other women also tried to help. But the rain was coming down heavily and soon the waters rose. We tried to lift her to get her out of the hut. We didn’'t know where we could take her, all around us were people running away from the water. All of us were carrying her, we took her away from the flood water and put her on some higher ground. I had Shamso, my 6 year old granddaughter, with me too”."

I glance down at Shamos, but she is shy and avoids my eyes.

"I sat with Sophie and tried to encourage her, but she was exhausted and frightened by the chaos around her. She was too weak to finish the labour, and she started shivering with the cold. She was very wet and sick. She was out in the rain– there was nowhere undercover to take her. She started fainting while pushing out the baby and we kept trying to wake her up”. After a while Sophia stopped responding to me”."

Nuria pauses to regain her composure, and shakes her head forcefully. “

"She stopped pushing the baby out. That night of the rain both my daughter Sophia died, and her baby died in her. We could not save either, although we carried on trying. I am now raising Shamso, but it is hard. I am an old woman. And Shamso misses her mother. What will we do to survive? There is no food, no water and no shelter. I am desperate.”"

Thousands of hungry and desperate families have arrived in Mogadishu in recent months after the worst drought to hit the region in living memory destroyed livestock and crops in rural areas. In some regions across East Africa, seasonal rains are helping to alleviate the drought, but flash flooding in Mogadishu has left thousands of displaced people, already desperately poor, without anywhere to live and has killed at least two children who were swept away last week in a storm.

Save the Children is working in the camps to help the families who live there cope with this new threat. Since the rains began, we've flown aid supplies for 4500 families into Mogadishu, including soap for handwashing, plastic sheeting for emergency shelters and water purification tablets to prevent disease.

Somalia's drought-displaced may have arrived in Mogadishu in search of food, but Nuria's story underlines the fact that hunger is just one of the threats they face. As the rainy season sets in, the drought will be alleviated, but the humanitarian crisis it created will continue to unfold.

Catherine Carter is Save the Children's emergency communications manager and is currently working on the East Africa crisis, covering Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.