Single mother Asha Abdullahi and her four children are thankful for a roof over their heads, even though they are squeezed into one room in the cramped house of a Somaliland family in Hargeisa.
They are among hundreds of families that have fled across the border with Ethiopia as refugees following conflict in Sitti zone in neighbouring Somali Region.
“We are poor, we are displaced families and life has been hard. We have not got aid or jobs. Our living conditions are hard,” Asha said.
They migrated from Tulli-guleed, 60 kilometres north of Jigjiga, where her husband was the breadwinner of the family until he was killed in February in conflict between Oromo and Somali communities.
In Hargeisa, Asha was able to collect about a dollar a day begging in the streets and asking local shops and businesses for help.
However, in August the mayor of the city ordered traders not to give charity to foreigners, meaning people from southern Somalia and Somali Region. The mayor said in a widely circulated speech that there are local people from Somaliland who are in need, and they should be the ones benefiting from money given charitably to others.
Asha is anxious about the cold nights and mosquitoes and has no bed nets for the children. She also has not heard from her family in Sitti for the past five months.
“I have lost contact with them, I don’t know how they are, I am not even sure if they are alive. The only hope I have is to get someone from there who can tell me something about them. I heard there has been new conflict, but I don’t know how to contact them,” she said.
Another mother of six, Shamso Mohamed Ibrahim, also fled to Hargeisa after escaping inter-communal conflict in Sitti. Back home, her husband used to provide for them doing odd jobs until he broke his leg and could no longer work, whilst Shamso kept livestock and earned small income selling meat and milk.
She has been struggling for the past three weeks and fears being evicted from their rental house in Hargeisa. She visits restaurants late at night to ask for leftover food for her children. Sometimes she is told to wash the dishes in exchange for these scraps.
“There is no money, and I am unable to work. My children and I have not had food since morning, and we are not sure about dinner tonight. We are facing difficulty,” said Shamso, who is pregnant and often feels unwell.
“The landlord is giving us an eviction notice. What can we do? We have not paid rent for the past three months. We are now living comfortably in the house, but we don’t know how we will get by if we are kicked out!”
According to Hana Abdisalam, head of registration at Somaliland’s National Displacement and Refugee Agency (NDRA), said that they would help these people as long as they are registered with Somaliland Immigration and Border Control (SIBC).
“There are services for refugee families, including cash aid to support them. This money is for destitute families or large families. People must be registered to get help and the migration agency has the right to allow people into the country,” she underscored.
She said there are 16,576 people, including refugees and internally displaced people, living in Hargeisa. The refugees from Ethiopia are mostly elderly people, women, and children. There are also aid organisations that help refugee and displaced families although beneficiaries still need to be registered with SIBC in order to get aid.