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Ethiopia: Fleeing pain and hopelessness

A refugee from Somalia enters the Jesuit Refugee Service Emergency Needs Program office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last month. (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)
Monday, June 13, 2011

(Addis Ababa) June 13, 2011 — In early May a 45-year-old Somali woman visited the Jesuit Refugee Service Emergency Needs Program office here in Ethiopia's capital seeking help. 

Hawa* and her four children, who range in age from four to 12, are but one family of an estimated 160,000 undocumented Somali refugees and asylum seekers living in Addis. Like many of them she fled war-torn Somalia in search of safety. Here, she shares the traumatizing experiences that made her flee her home country. 

"I used to live with my husband and six children in Mogadishu, in our own house. I belong to the Hawiye clan. There was frequent fighting between government soldiers, supported by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and Al-Shabaab militias. 

In December 2008, our house was hit by a rocket at 7:00pm. Myself, my husband and two children were inside the house, while the other four children were with the neighbors. 

My husband and my two children were killed in the rocket attack. I was severely wounded on my right breast but managed to leave the house before it burnt down with all our belongings.   

Later, the neighbors gathered to look at the devastation, bringing my other four children with them. When my children saw me, wounded and bleeding, they started crying so much. 

My neighbors took me to a health centre. The physician was left with no option but to cut off my right breast and to give me some treatment. 

After that incident, the children and I felt threatened and very insecure. I had lost hope and there was no reason for us to stay in Somalia.  

In search for security, we eventually fled to Ethiopia, entering the country through the Dolo border point in the southeast." 

At JRS in Addis, Hawa found some consolation. The team listened to her story, consoled and counseled her. With the financial assistance Hawa received from JRS she has rented a house and can buy food for the children until a better and more permanent solution will be found for her and her children.   

* not her real name