By: Barkhad Kaariye
Somalilandsun -It was late afternoon and the sun was just about to set when I arrived at Asha Ali’s home. She was resting her back on the door frame of her buul soomaali,
the traditional Somali hut made from beautifully coloured rugs, and had a little pocket radio in her lap.
I greeted Asha but she raised her hand to stop me from talking and I was moved to realise she was listening to the BBC Media Action radio programme I help to produce, Tiiraarka Qoyska (Pillars Of The Family) which helps people find out how best to feed and look after their children.
Once the programme had finished, Asha looked up and offered me a gambadh, a Somali traditional stool. “I am sorry,” she said and went on to explain how Tiiraarka Qoyska has become part of her life: “I am the breadwinner for my family. I sell vegetables and fruit to support my children but I always take 30 minutes to listen to this programme every Sunday.”
“I am a poor widow who is struggling to bring up three children,” she explained. “I cannot afford to regularly take them to the hospital when they become sick.”
But unfortunately two of her three children have in the past urgently required hospital treatment.
When she had to rush her son to hospital, Asha was told the child was suffering from malnutrition. “I didn’t even know what malnutrition was. All that I knew is that it severely attacked my son,” she said.
And then while her son slowly recovered, one day Asha’s daughter, Hibo, fell sick with severe diarrhoea and became very ill.
Seeking the right information
During this difficult day, Asha remembers sitting in her hut feeling physically and mentally exhausted. She turned on her small pocket radio and tuned into the BBC Somali service. It so happened that Dareemo, the drama within each episode of Tiiraarka Qoyska, was on air.
“I found myself listening to the drama that was addressing the problem that my daughter, Hibo was facing,” she said.
“From that day, I became a regular listener of the programme which helped a lot. It provides me with the information I need such as advice about things like appropriate complementary feeding for children after they’re six months old, increasing food and fluids when children are sick, and hand washing,” she said. Thankfully, her daughter Hibo recovered.
Asha now never misses the Tiiraarka Qoyska and calls it “a teacher in my home”. She now says she knows “the symptoms of disease, how to properly feed my baby and other vital health information.”
People in rural areas like Asha do not have access to doctors and health clinics so radio has helped to narrow the gap between city and country and rich and poor.
As the moon’s bright light appeared, Asha picked up the kerosene lamp she had brought to light our conversation in front of her buul and collected the gambadhs and her radio to retire into her hut.
She was smiling as she shared her last words, “It’s time to give my children their supper. Have to go.
The writer Barkhad Kaariye is a Production Assistant with BBC Media Action in Somalia based in Hargeisa