Ambiyo, her husband Mahat, and their children outside their shelter in the IDP camp in Gedo region, Somalia
In advance of Mother’s Day this Sunday (19th March), Trócaire, marking its 50th anniversary this year, has asked the people of Causeway Coast and Glens to think of the millions of incredible mothers the agency works with who do the seemingly impossible to provide a better life for themselves and their families.
One of these mothers is Ambiyo from the Gedo Region of Somalia, whose family features on the Trόcaire Lenten Box this year.
Ambiyo, her husband Mahat, and their eight young children ranging in age from 14 years to 7 months old have been living in Boyle Internally Displaced Persons camp outside Luuq in Gedo Region, southern Somalia, since March 2022.
They are among hundreds of thousands of Somalis forced to flee their homes due to a fourth consecutive year of drought which has ravaged the country. In 2023, an estimated 8.25 million people, nearly half of Somalia’s population, will need immediate lifesaving assistance.
The Mahat family left their home in Dor Murah village in Bakool region, approximately 55 kms from Luuq, after their crops failed and the last of their goats died. They say their only option was to leave – or stay and face starvation and death. After walking for three days, they arrived in Boyle with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Ambiyo (36) was five months pregnant.
“Before the drought came, we had goats and a donkey. Our family was growing. We were also farmers with a plot of land and we grew crops. Our home was built from mud walls and had two rooms – enough room for us all. We were happy and settled and could afford items and the upkeep of our children,” Ambiyo said.
“But everything changed when the drought came three years ago. The drought took everything. Previously we experienced drought, but it always passed and didn’t last and did not force us out of our homes. Our goats started to die. One by one by one by one. It was heart-breaking. When we were down to our last goat, we made the decision to leave our village. If we didn’t, we would all have died. We heard that there was help if we got to a camp in Luuq.”
Ambiyo said it was a very tough journey: “I was five months pregnant and carried one of our little twin girls on my front and the other on my back. My husband helped the other younger children and the older ones walked. It was very difficult walking in the heat of the day. It was cold at night. We carried a water container and got water from bore holes along the way. Apart from the goat meat there was no food. My husband and I did not eat at all – we survived on water. When we arrived at the IDP camp we were very weak and tired.”
Boyle is a new IDP camp on the edge of Luuq town. It is home to thousands of families forced to leave their homes due to the ongoing drought. It is a desolate place and as far as the eye can see there are hundreds of makeshift shelters. New families have been arriving here every day in recent months. Temperatures are nearly 40 degrees Celsius.
Ambiyo is stoic and dignified despite all she has endured. She doesn’t smile often but when she does her beauty shines. She is still weak after almost losing her life giving birth on the ground of the family’s shelter. Ambiyo and her baby received life-saving treatment at the Trόcaire clinic. Trόcaire provides all of the health services in Gedo.
Ambiyo’s biggest wish is for a better life for her family. “Before we met Trócaire life was very tough for us here. Most of all I want my children’s lives to be better. I want them to go to school and to have a good education. I did not go to school and my husband did not go to school. I am happy to be in Luuq as we are near the health services so if my children get sick, they will get help. It is good to be here where we have supports. Being here gives me hope.”
Mahat echoes his wife’s wish for their children to have an education.
Ambiyo says they are enormously grateful to the people of Ireland, north and south, who have supported the people of Somalia through Trócaire.
“Without the support my family received from Ireland, we might not be alive. I want people to know that we want to live a better life and to have food for my children. I need food assistance and we are getting this. Thank you to people in Ireland for supporting my family and the people in Internally Displaced Camps in Gedo,” Ambiyo said.
To find out more about the Lenten Appeal or make a donation visit www.trocaire.org