Civilians, especially women, tend to bear the brunt of armed conflicts across the world, particularly in Somalia, where Islamist insurgents are fighting a weak government propped up by African Union forces. Several women in Mogadishu told IRIN about the day-to-day reality of living in a warzone.
Malyun Dirie Hantul, 28, blinded after a mortar fell on her home:
“I had just delivered our baby and was in the house as my husband washed the bloody clothes I used during the delivery; he was killed as he poured out the dirty water – a stray bullet hit him.
“One day, as I sat at the door to my home, a mortar fell on us; all I remember was the dust all around us, then I lost consciousness. I woke up in a hospital bed and immediately realized I had lost my sight. Now I am a poor, powerless and blind woman.”
Fatuma Abdi Dirie, internally displaced person (IDP):
“Women are always the victims of war, rain and hunger. We live with a lot of uncertainty and this makes life a real challenge, especially for a diabetic like me. I don’t know for how long we will survive like this. I think about my fate every day.”
Hariro Osman, another IDP:
“I am a victim of disease sparked by poor sanitation, shelling and displacement. I have an unknown disease that I think was brought about by the rubbish around me and the smoke or burning caused by mortars which fell on my house.
“I have difficulty falling asleep at night because of the horror and stress; during the day, I struggle to look for food for my children because my husband is an old man who doesn’t work.”
Halima Moalim Abikar, head of Hanad, a Mogadishu-based human rights association:
“What mothers and children undergo every day is unbearable and heartbreaking; as women activists, we are calling for an end to the killing and harassment of women.
“International and local laws do not allow for the defenceless to be harmed; on the contrary, the laws demand they be respected, so my plea is: please stop displacing women every day and seek peace for their sake.”
The fighting in and around Mogadishu has displaced 11,700 people since 14 June, according to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR. The agency estimates that one million Somalis fled Mogadishu in 2007 and 2008 due to the fighting between government troops and opposition Islamist groups Al-Shabab and Hisbul Islam.
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]