(ERGO) – Salah Haji Jimale, once a wealthy farmer in the breadbasket area of Somalia’s Middle Shabelle region, now works in a car wash to keep his family from hunger in a displaced persons camp.
Flooding from the Shabelle River destroyed Salah’s farm and property in Mansoor village, 15 kilometers west of Mahaday Weyne town, in May. They had no choice but to flee south to Jowhar, where he settled in Tawakal IDP camp with his wife, seven children and two elderly parents.
“I was a rich man with a four hectare farm. I used to plant sesame, beans, corn, mangoes, bananas and lemons. The flood washed away the farm and destroyed our four-room house. We fled with nothing but our lives. We didn’t even take our sheets and utensils, ”Salah told Radio Ergo.
He now works in a car wash in Jowhar, earning up to 40,000 Somali shillings ($ 1.5). The money he earns is not enough to feed his family of 11. His wife washes clothes and earns 60,000 to 100,000 Somali shillings ($ 2.3 to $ 3.8) when she finds work, hoping to prepare two meals a day for the family.
Her 12-year-old daughter also works as a housekeeper for a family in Jowhar, earning $ 20 a month, though sometimes she is not paid on time.
Salah is bitter about the blow he and his family suffered. He had taken out a loan of $ 450 to buy seeds and inputs for his farm and hoped to repay the loan after harvest.
“I never thought I’d work in a car wash in my life! I do this job so that my kids don’t sleep hungry, otherwise it’s not something I would do, ”he said. “If I was alone and had no children, I wouldn’t have done this job.
Struggling to adapt to city life, the first time he washed a customer’s car, he poured water on the seats, angering the car owner who refused to pay. A coworker soothed the customer and helped clean up.
Salah regrets their old life as independent farmers, living in their own home with everything they needed. Although four of his children attend a secular school supported by NGOs that provide books and uniforms, it is not the education he wants for his children.
“Life in the IDP camp is not good at all. In the village, we did not have a school, but my children went to the madarassa. When we got here, I took three of my children to a madarassa near the camp, but was asked to pay $ 3.8 per month for each child. I don’t have that money, so they stopped going, ”he complained.
“Here at the car wash, I don’t make any money, some days I go home empty-handed. This is not life! My wife goes around the villages to ask the locals if they have any laundry jobs. It’s like being a beggar, because sometimes people push her away, shut the door in her face!
Salah asked supporters to help him rebuild his house destroyed by the floods and pay off his debts so that he could return to the village and resume his activities.
“I saw what life in the city is like. It is not a suitable place for me to live. You have to have the money to have a decent life here. I ask humanitarian organizations and Somalis of goodwill to support me, ”he said.