Page last updated at 09:14 GMT, Thursday, 25 December 2008

From Bristol to Mogadishu, with love

Abdulahi Husein Aboti, his wife Anisa, and three of their four children
Aboti and Anisa live in southern Mogadishu with their four children

The BBC's Mohamed Olad Hassan meets a Mogadishu family that depends for money on a relative living and working in the UK. The relative works in a warehouse in Bristol, and supports eight families back in Somalia with the money he makes.

Living in Mogadishu, the capital of a lawless country, is far from easy.

Thousands of its residents have already fled Somalia as a result of violence between Islamist insurgents and Ethiopian troops, which back the weak but UN-recognised government of Somalia.

The country's official unemployment rate is close to 100%.

Many people have little choice but to live in camps for internally displaced people. Some in Mogadishu depend solely on remittances from their relatives abroad. Others run small businesses.

Abdulahi Husein Aboti is a 33-year-old father of four - two sons and two daughters. The family lives together in a troubled zone in the south of the capital. Most of his neighbours and his relatives have already fled.

Because the Ethiopians have bases nearby, the area is always a prime target for the insurgents.

Staying in the city

But, unlike many others, he has decided to remain in his own home, with his wife, 24-year-old Anisa, and their children. He says he doesn't have enough money to enable the family to seek shelter in a safer part of the city.

"I know everything is from God," he says.

Abdulahi Husein Aboti, his daughters and one of his sons
We live a simple life, but it's not a real one. You can imagine, $150 is just not enough for a family like ours
Abdulahi Husein Aboti
"We remain here because living in IDP camps is not healthy and I can't afford to pay for medicine for my kids if they fall ill.

"We live here and every time fighting goes on around us, we duck while it is going on and then come out once it subsides."

Despite such risks surrounding his family, Aboti is more worried about what would happen to his children and wife if his brother - who lives and works in the UK city of Bristol - were to lose his job.

He says that because of the global financial crisis the money sent back by his brother has already decreased by a quarter.

"My family depends completely on my brother in Britain, who sends us $150 every month.

"I have no job here and nowhere else to turn. I'm waiting for my destiny. He has dropped the amount he was sending us from $200 to $150," he said.

Balancing the budget

"Now we live a simple life, but it's not a real one. You can imagine, $150 is just not enough for a family like ours. The kids need milk and food - which are expensive. You even need money for water here.

"But I am really worried that this false life might turn into nothing if my brother Abdi Husein, in Bristol, loses his current job or if the financial crisis gets any worse," Aboti said.

His wife Amisa too senses that times could get even tougher for her family. But she points out that it will be her, not Aboti, who will feel the pain of feeding a family with a very restricted income. She is the one who manages the family budget.


My worst fear would be if my children's paternal uncle in Britain - our only tower of our strength and the sole bread-winner for my family - were to lose his job

Anisa, mother of four

"If you are short of money in Mogadishu, planning family meals is very difficult, because the prices of essential food stuffs fluctuate so much," Anisa explains.

"For example, one day you go to market and buy something. The next morning the prices have already changed but your income always remains the same, so how do you manage? It's like living just for the sake of living."

"But my worst fear would be if my children's paternal uncle in Britain - our only tower of our strength and the sole bread-winner for my family - were to lose his job as a result of the current financial crisis," she said.

Map showing remittances in Africa



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