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A Mogadishu soup kitchen feeds the hungry

Kaltuumo is a 63-year-old mother of eight. Born in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, she married at the age of 20. Her husband used to work at the Mogadishu seaport as a porter, but he died 11 years ago. The family’s source of income is Kaltuumo’s daughters, who sometimes work as part-time housemaids in their neighborhood. Two of her sons are semi-skilled workers but they cannot find employment.

Kaltuumo’s family completely depends on the relief organization SAACID’s food kitchen, and has done so since the onset of this wet-feeding programme (wet-feeding means that the recipients get food that has already been cooked). ‘For the last two years, our livelihood has mainly depended on the food we get from this food kitchen,’ Kaltuumo says.

SAACID has been running a food kitchen programme since November 2007 in all 16 districts of Mogadishu City, and continues to provide free hot meals to those affected by the ongoing food crisis in the Horn of Africa.

Drought, the extremely long war and two consequent years of poor rain have deprived many people of food in this already heavily suffering place. It’s estimated there are around 2.85 million people in a food security crisis in Somalia, and this number is expected to increase dramatically in the second half of 2011, with food prices hitting a new record high.

Sitting on top of a hill in Mogadishu, Bakara market was a nerve center for much of southern Somalia. It’s the most populated part of Mogadishu, and perhaps the largest legitimate component of southern Somalia’s economy remaining after two decades of chaos and war. However, recent fighting has paralyzed business activities in this market and others within the city.

The work stoppage has had a drastic effect on 65-year-old Habiibo and her family. ‘My family has no income because my sons are currently unemployed. They used to work at Bakara market as porters, but now the market is almost closed due to ongoing conflict, and there is not much activity in that market.’

Although Habiibo’s sons sometimes get temporary employment as masons or porters, the income earned is not enough to support the entire family. ‘What they earn from their temporarily work is a help for the family, but it does not meet our minimum expenses,’ she says.

Habiibo has been a beneficiary of a SAACID food kitchen for two years. ‘The food we get here is very high quality food, and it guarantees that we can survive as our income is too low. With this food, we are able to eat one or two good meals a day.’

Somalia normally experiences two major harvests a year, in January and August, mostly in the southern regions. The last season failed due to the drought and the next is likely to reach about half of a normal harvest, again due to insufficient rains.

High cereal prices continue to affect the country because of a very low supply of local cereals on the market, which leads to an increase in the cost of living and a weakening of people’s purchasing power. Coupled with that, the poor rainfall also resulted in a significant number of livestock deaths and reduced value of livestock for the pastoralists, as they have lost body condition.

Adversely affected by these circumstances is Salado, a single mother of nine. This family is one of those displaced by drought from the Bay Region.

‘Our life was not good for the last two years because there was not enough rain in our area and there has been no humanitarian support [due to the conflict],’ she says. ‘We have survived that long drought; and now we hope to survive in Mogadishu, despite the ongoing fighting.’

Salado and the other families who have recently arrived in Mogadishu fleeing from drought have mostly received support from the community and business groups in the neighbourhood. Salado’s family depends completely on the food kitchen for survival.

‘Currently, our life is good. When we came to Mogadishu we got support from local communities… and we also have food access to a food kitchen,’ Salado says. ‘That food is enough for the whole family for lunch, dinner and breakfast.’

This story originally appeared on Channel 16 website.

All photos by SAACID. People in the photos are not the ones interviewed for this story.

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