The street cleaners in Mogadishu: Doing Somalia’s riskiest job

Mogadishu, Somalia – It is an hour sooner than daybreak in downtown Mogadishu. The Somali capital is fast asleep with eerie silence hanging in the great and comfy salty air blowing from the Indian Ocean. Apart from a small group of girls sporting dark-coloured clothes and flip-flops on Maka al-Mukarama avenue in the heart of the city, there is no such thing as a such factor as a completely different soul in sight. With few street lights working, the women combine almost fully into the pre-dawn darkness.

Each is carrying a plastic broom, a shovel and sack, and works about 300m (984 ft) away from the other. They barely make any sound as they get to work. “It is best not to be seen for your own safety,” thought-about one among them, 50-year-old Maryan Salad Mohamed, knowledgeable Al Jazeera. “We do our best not to be seen and even better if no one hears us. There are many dangers when you do our job.”  Maryan and the others are street cleaners working for the city’s native authority – one among the essential dangerous jobs inside the Somali capital.

“Before I leave the house I pray. You don’t know if you will come back alive,” the mother-of-seven, knowledgeable Al Jazeera in a low, easy voice. There just isn’t any official rely for the variability of street cleaners who’ve misplaced their lives inside the line of obligation. But for years, the city has misplaced dozens of street cleaners attributable to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) hidden in rubbish left on the side of the streets.

In August 2008, at least 21 female street cleaners have been killed on the an identical stretch of the street following an explosion that moreover left 46 others, largely women street cleaners, wounded. In August 2014, an explosion left 4 female street cleaners lifeless and seven others injured in that very similar district of Mogadishu.

And in a grotesque assault in February 2019, unknown gunmen shot lifeless 9 street cleaners, along with six women at a location some 15km (9 miles) from the city centre.

Authorities blamed the al-Qaeda-linked armed group al-Shabab for the deadly blasts.

The group, which needs to impose a strict interpretation of Sharia laws in Somalia, is stopping the nation’s Western-backed authorities. It has sometimes planted IEDs on the side of the roads to take down passing authorities officers or African Union peacekeeping troops inside the nation.

But it has denied authorities claims they’re behind the assaults or that street cleaners are the target.

“We do not target anyone for cleaning the streets of Mogadishu, in fact cleaning the streets is an act of charity that is welcomed by Islam,” the group knowledgeable Al Jazeera in a press launch on July 5.

“Mogadishu’s street cleaners are killed by the same troops who frequently target the Tuk-tuk drivers of Mogadishu, and everyone knows who those are. They are the apostate militia and their foreign crusaders,” the assertion added.

‘No other option’

Most of them are widows who misplaced their husbands in the midst of the nation’s 30-year-old civil battle and are their households’ breadwinners. On any given day, there are at least 450 of them cleaning the streets of the Somali capital, in response to the native metropolis authority.

The highest earners take home $150 a month. Some receive meals rations in alternate for the work and many work on a voluntary basis hoping to secure a job if and when one comes up.

A fast distance away, Hawo Ali Hassan, an eight-year veteran of the streets goes through empty packing containers left on the side of the road gently with two fingers.

Hawa says she doesn’t like her “very risky” job nevertheless has to do it to position meals on the desk for her big family.

“I would not recommend anyone to do it. You can die at any moment. I work seven days a week because I have to support my children and blind husband,” the mother of 10 children acknowledged.

Her husband turned blind after a mortar landed near the place he was working 10 years up to now.

“I have no other option. I’m a mother. I will do anything to support my children. Yes, it is risky but I will take any risk for them,” the 58-year-old added as she moved to the next pile of rubbish that needed clearing.

Relatives of the street cleaners misplaced inside the line of obligation are nonetheless coming to phrases with the tragedy.

“I still remember receiving a phone call from my brother-in-law telling me my grandmother has been killed,” Hodma Abdishakur Hassan knowledgeable Al Jazeera.

“She was blown up near Medina police station. She was just starting her shift. Her lower body was blown to pieces. She was alive first but died of the injuries a few hours later. She was not just my grandmother but was also raising me and my two other siblings,” Hodma added, tears dripping on her black niqab.

Fay Mohamed Hassan was 70 years outdated when she was killed in November 2011 and incomes $120 a month, Hodma added. Two completely different female cleaners misplaced their lives within the an identical explosion.

Easy targets

IEDs shouldn’t the one threat the street cleaners face daily.

“We are easy target for robbers. Most of us have [been] robbed of mobile phones and valuables. If you work late at night or early morning then you will most likely get robbed. And they are very violent. It is why none of us want to wear high viz jackets because it will attract robbers,” Maryan acknowledged.

The native authority says they’re doing their most interesting to defend their staff.

“We have stopped them from working night shift for safety reasons,” Hussein Abtidoon Warsame, the deputy head of sanitation for Mogadishu municipality knowledgeable Al Jazeera.

“We have started hiring male staff to deter thieves from targeting female staff. But it is not easy to find male staff because men don’t want to do cleaning work,” he added.

Hussein, who himself was badly injured in an assault claimed by al-Shabab and strikes with the help of a strolling stick, says authorities pays the hospital funds of those injured inside the line of labor.

“Sadly, we can’t afford to give compensation if someone dies. We don’t have the money. But we will give the position to family members if they wish [to] take up the work,” he added.

For the women going out every morning to keep up Mogadishu clear, it is a hazard they’re prolonged accustomed to.

“We have no one to protect us but God. In our line of work, we fear people. Not stray dogs or wild animals,” Maryan acknowledged.

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