Grieving Somalia families in contact again after years apart

Friday, May 31, 2013

MOGADISHU (Xinhua) — After four years separated by conflicts in Somalia, Isha Farah finally restored contact with her 23-year-old daughter.

When Isha picked up the phone calling from Mombasa, Kenya, she immediately recognized her daughter Batulo, though the voice was no longer the same as she remembered.

Isha burst into crying with ecstasy. On the other side of the phone, Batulo is sobbing and chocked with emotion.

In 2009, Isha Farah lost contact with her 23-year-old daughter and her husband when they fled the Somali capital city Mogadishu to escape from the raging violence.

Isha could barely sleep well at night ever since she lost contact with Batulo. “I dreamed of finding my daughter, “ said Isha.

“I remembered every single day with her and pray for her return, “ Isha recollected those days that she would never forget.

Her ordeal ended early this year as good news from the Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS) came: her Batulo was living in Kenya port city of Mombasa.

The volunteers of the local Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS) and their partner, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (ICRC) in the horn of Africa nation has traced her daughter for months.

“Thank Allah I now have contact with my daughter who is in Mombasa with new husband and they has got two children,” Isha said.

Isha and Batulo are one of the thousands Somali families separated by more than two decades of conflict.

Omar Hassan Muse, national tracing coordinator of the SRCS, says it is a tough challenge to trace people who lost contact with family for years. Some efforts have good endings while others do not.

“Our work is to restore contact between family members and reunite them. We have succeeded in many of our efforts and there are times when we cannot trace the person sought and that is disheartening for the family and for us as well,” Muse said.

Abdi Idow, a resident in Mogadishu, has not been in contact with his daughter for nearly 22 years and was at the local Red Crescent society tracing office in Mogadishu.

Idow says his daughter aged 12 fled with another family after the conflict broke out in the Somali capital Mogadishu back in 1990.

He has never heard of her and the neighbors who she fled with, although he was told the family along with his daughter got asylum in America.

“I am here to get help in finding my daughter. We lost contact with her many years ago and the last time we hear any news of her and the family we were told they were in the USA,” Idow said.

Idow says despite all these years he and his family have not lost hope of finding his daughter.

“You can have closure when you know your loved one is dead and bury them but when you have no knowledge of their whereabouts and you have a sense they are still alive it is not possible to lose hope of finding them,” said Idow, as tears filled his eyes.

Apart from the tracing, the Somali Red Cross and the ICRC operate a pilot family links mobile phone service for internally displaced persons in the Rajo Camp in Mogadishu.

Residents call relatives back in areas where they fled from for news about family members and general situation.

Zaynad Mohamoud Afrah, tracing officer in northern Mogadishu in charge of the family links mobile phone service at the camp says their program provides 2 minute of phone call per family a month to get news of relatives.

Afrah says the program immensely helps families to update to other family members about life in hometown. Others call family members outside the country.

“This is another level of restoring family links because people at this camp (Rajo) can’t afford to buy mobile phone so this program is very important for the residents at this camp,” Afrah said.

Daahir Mohamed, a resident in the Rajo camp, is benefiting from the free phone call to family program. He is using the monthly phone to contact his relatives in the southern Lower Shabelle region.

“I don’t know how I would ever be able to get in contact with my family and to know about their situation without the program. I am happy to get this opportunity,” Mohamed said after talking to his family.

Isha is a lucky one who restored contact with her daughter. She hopes that soon she may meet with her daughter, whom she has not seen for the past four years.

“I am thankful to the volunteers who helped me find my daughter. I am pleased I may soon have to see her and her children in Somalia and I am excited about that,” said Isha.

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