2013: With the support from European Commission Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) constructed 700 new houses for internally displaced in Digaale settlement southeast of Hargeysa town in Somaliland. Sahra (40) and her daughter, Hodan, was one of the families that got a plot of land and a new home.
2017: Four years later Sahra lost her house, documents, all her belongings and her only daughter in a tragic fire accident.
Got a new start in 2013
Sahra was born in Hadi-Salad in Toghdeer, near the Somaliland-Ethiopia border. Before living as an internally displaced person, Sahra lived with her husband, a military officer, in Hadi-salah until he was killed during a security operation. “I moved to Hargeisa. I could not pay the rent in Hadi-salah,” she says.
Back in 2013, Sahra was among hundreds of women who were present during the launching ceremony of Digaale settlement. She had just received her land title deed and home ownership certificate. “I was delighted at the possibility of moving away from harassments and threats from people claiming to have authority from land owners in Hargeisa. Now I could have peace of mind after moving into my own property,” she says.
Sadly, Sahra’s life has been affected in an unexpected way. Her only daughter Hodan (6), perished in a horrific fire accident that engulfed their initial home.
“The events of that fateful day can never be erased from my memory. I remember how I woke up and started to light the fire to make breakfast. I woke Hodan up and asked her to clean up utensils. Later, I left the house after instructing her to wait until I returned as I was going to attend a community meeting and later I went to study Quran at the mosque. That was the last time I ever saw or spoke to her,” she says.
“When I was walking back, I saw plumes of smoke around the corner. I heard people shouting ‘fire!’ and to my horror, I realised that the fire was consuming my own house! I ran. I felt dizzy. My head was spinning. I prayed. It felt like the end of the world had arrived,” she narrates.
That day, she lost her daughter who died in the fire. All her property including sleeping mattress, blankets, clothes, cooking utensils, mats, chairs, tables and cupboard were burnt down to ashes during the horrific fire outbreak. She also lost her title deed and home ownership certificate and all other critical documents such as identification cards and notebooks.
Later, government agencies came and took samples from the fire scene. They took away the remains of Hodan for further investigations. Two days later, they brought the body back and approved burial preparations to proceed. Hodan had died from severe burns and inhalation of smoke. “I was too traumatized to accompany the burial convoy to the gravesite. I remained behind and cried the whole day,” Sahra says.
Got a new house
After the fire accident, with the support from European Commission Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), NRC has constructed a new house for Sahra.
She also intends to initiate the process of replacing her land title and home ownership certificate. “I will send a request to the chairman of the settlement for assistance in getting the replacement. This will require obtaining an abstract from the police and filling and submitting replacement forms,” she explains. She hopes NRC’s Information, Counselling and Legal Assistance (ICLA) can also help in the process of renewing her documents.