A gift from Allah
Producer, BBC Media Action in Somalia
Recording of Tiiraarka Qoyska (Pillars Of The Family) in Somalia.
It was a dark and rainy night in Hargeisa. The sky was covered with clouds, heavy with water. I could see nothing, except when lightning lit up the deserted streets. That night I was waiting for a gift from Allah. It was 2007, I was 19 years old and about to become a father for the first time.
The gift was a baby girl and I will always remember her shiny and beautiful face. I was so excited to have a child and I couldn’t wait to hear her voice calling me daddy.
But unfortunately it was not to be.
When she was only a few months old, my baby girl suddenly died. It was God’s will to take her away but, as I learned later, her symptoms pointed to a lack of regular breastfeeding.
I have myself been in the same sad situation as a lot of other parents in Somalia, parents whom I reach every day through my work for BBC Media Action making radio programmes which help people find out how best to feed and look after their children.
Tailored to the needs of Somali audiences, Tiiraarka Qoyska (Pillars Of The Family) includes a weekly drama and interactive discussion which focuses on the nutrition, hygiene and health issues raised in the drama.
The information broadcast includes the health benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, appropriate complementary feeding for children after six months, increasing food and fluids when children are sick, handwashing and safe disposal of faecal matter. The key messages from the programme are also repeated through entertaining radio trails.
The radio programme is aimed at parents like Hodan, a young mother who lives south of the city of Galkayo in central Somalia. She used to bottle feed her first child but he often got sick. "After I listened to the programme on BBC Somali service," she told me, "I noticed why my older child always became ill - because of bottle feeding rather than breastfeeding. That’s why I have chosen to breastfeed my newly-born son."
Now I am a father of four: three sons and a daughter. By getting reliable and useful information about how to look after them and with thanks to Allah, all my four children are now healthy.