Ethiopia: An avalanche of challenges
17 September 2010

A young Somali mother waits for assistance at the JRS office in Addis Ababa. (Peter Balleis SJ/JRS)
Life was very tough because, while in Somalia, I lost two of my sons and was separated from my husband and another son who disappeared.
Addis Ababa, 17 September 2010 – My name is Fatuma and I am one of the thousands of refugees who had to flee Somalia due to the deadly security and humanitarian situation. Especially women and children are driven to neighbouring countries. I am one of them and I face a lot of challenges. 

I am forty years old and I am from a village in Somalia called Badinelo. In early 2008 I fled to Ethiopia with my four daughters and seven sons.

I sought asylum at Jijiga camp, in eastern Ethiopia, and stayed there for four months. Life was very tough because, while in Somalia, I lost two of my sons and was separated from my husband and another son who disappeared. 

When I came to Ethiopia I had little hope. One of my daughters had a heart attack. I also have a son with a mental problem and found it hard to cope with all these challenges at the beginning. 

Looking for help

Desperate, I started running around, looking for treatment for my daughter. With the support of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the Ethiopian government’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), my 14-year-old daughter started medical treatment in Jijiga. 

Unfortunately, the hospital could not reverse the situation and referred her to a hospital in Addis Ababa, where death took her away from me. She passed away, meaning I lost three of my children within a few months. 

My other children now attend primary school with support from UNHCR. They also attend informal classes at the JRS daycare centre. JRS supports us in other ways as well, they give us milk and sugar and sometimes financial assistance which encourages me. 

It helps us overcome the hardships we have to undergo. I am grateful for the special care, support, deep love and affection JRS staff has showed me and for the accompaniment during the time of my sorrow. I extend my gratitude to all those behind the assistance. May Allah bless them.


Fatuma was recently reunited with her husband and son who found their way to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.