People's Entire Lives are Dependent on this Money

Published July 10, 2014 by Anne-Marie Schryer-Roy


For millions of Somalis, money received from relatives living abroad (known as remittances) have remained an important means for survival. They use that money to meet their daily needs.

A few weeks ago, I spoke with two women, Hawa Abdullahi Warsame and Kadija Hasan Mahamed, from Badhan, in Northern Somalia. They spoke openly and passionately about how important remittances were to their families. 

Hawa and Kadija explained to me that they both have been receiving remittances for over ten years.

This is money I need to survive

“This is not just extra money that I have; this is money I need to survive, on a daily basis. Not only am I dependent on this money, but my entire family as well, including my extended family; over ten other relatives depend on it,” explained Hawa.

“I have sick relatives who need medication, and children that I am trying to provide an education for; this money is vital for that. If I did not receive this money we would not be able to survive and I am scared to even think of what could happen.

We do not have a government to support us, so this money is our lifeline, and I am grateful to still be able to receive remittances today,” she added.

“This money is essential for my family to get food and water, as well as pay for my children’s education,” said Kadija. “Money would be very tight for us if we did not receive the remittances. I don’t know how long my family would survive without our monthly remittances,” she adds.

“Every month we wait for this money, it is not a game for us, we patiently wait every month and look forward to its arrival, that’s how important it is for our daily survival and health.”

Both women spoke candidly about how important remittances are to their everyday lives. They also explained how they share what they receive from abroad, sending part of the money to friends and relatives in Somalia who are in need. This is not unusual, and is the case for most people in the region who have family members in various parts of Somalia. Hawa and Kadija explained to me that because of this, neither one of them has been able to save up any money.

Remmitances are under threat

Having recently moved to Somalia from Virginia, USA, I was familiar with remittance senders, but this was the first time I had the opportunity to hear first-hand accounts from recipients.

I explained to Hawa and Kadija that remittances were under threat due to bank account closures in the US and elsewhere, and that Adeso and its partners were working to raise awareness about the human impact of remittance flows. Their great concern regarding this issue allowed them to speak candidly. They wanted to share their stories with the world, so that people can see how this money is being used, and how essential it is.

These and other recent interviews have confirmed to me the extreme necessity of remittances in Somalia. Without them, who knows how long many families, like Hawa and Kadija’s, would survive.

In the United States, Hamdi Abdulle of Renton, WA, has started a petition to ask the Treasury Department to ensure that this vital lifeline remains in place. Add your voice here.

Watch this video produced with Oxfam America

Note: Every year, migrants around the world send over USD 1.3 billion dollars in remittances to Somalia, which is more than all foreign aid and investment in the country combined. About 40% of families in Somalia depend on remittances to meet their most basic needs. This lifeline is currently under threat due to decisions being made in the world’s capitals, including Washington, DC, and London, UK.