Ethiopia: In search of peace and security
17 November 2010

A young Somali mother with her child in Addis Ababa. Single mothers are among the most vulnerable. (Angelika Mendes/JRS)
She realised that I was HIV positive and immediately chased me from the house.
Addis Ababa, 17 November 2010 – My name is Aziza, I am 30 years old. I had a husband and bore him five children. Two of my children died because of diarrhoea while they were babies. The other three, two boys and a girl, are alive. 

I was living in Baladweyne town in Somalia with my husband and my children. While I was pregnant with my younger son the Islamist Al Shabaab attacked us. They whipped and tormented me, and I ran and ran to escape them until I fell down. 

All this highly affected the foetus in my womb and I fell seriously ill. However, in 2002 I eventually gave birth to a boy with great pain and suffering. 

Since his birth, my son has been completely paralysed. For me, this is a result of the attack and the general insecurity we had to live with. When I look at him, he seems like a three or four year old while he really is eight. 

His nerves do not work at all, he cannot move or sit down, he is always lying motionless, like a dead child and he cannot even turn over. His mouth is always open and he cannot speak. He cannot eat any kind of solid food, only milk or other juicy foods and I feed him every day. 

Living with the virus

Four months ago my husband died of HIV/AIDS. Because my husband was infected with the virus, I am also living with it. 

Because of the fighting in Somalia I did not feel safe there with my children. In search of security I fled with the children and my aunt to Ethiopia, crossing the border in Wajalle, in the south-east of the country. 

I then left my two healthy children with my aunt in Jijiga town, the capital of the Somali Ogaden region in south-eastern Ethiopia and came to Addis Ababa with my paralysed son. 

Once in Addis, I stayed with a Somali woman whom I knew from home. She gave me only a sleeping place so I had to gather my daily food by begging from other Somali refugees or local people.  

Chased away because of HIV/AIDS

While I was staying with that woman, I secretly began taking life-prolonging [anti retroviral] medicines. One day, while I was cleaning the house my medicine fell on the floor, in front of her. She realised that I was HIV positive and immediately chased me from the house. 

I moved to another area in Addis where nobody knew me. Moving somewhere where people knew me meant they would neglect or ignore me because of the virus. I met another Somali woman whom I didn’t know before. She gave me a sleeping place and I still beg to obtain daily food for me and my son. 

Aziza first came to JRS on June 7, 2010. The team listened to her story, consoled her and helped her with financial assistance and blankets. They continue to check on her.