ETHIOPIA-SOMALIA: Ahmed Nour-Mohamed, "I hope to earn enough polishing shoes to take my family home"
HARGEISA, 28 August (IRIN) - Only nine years old, Ahmed Nour-Mohamed, from Ethiopia and living in Hargeisa, capital of secessionist Somaliland, has big plans - to make enough money from shoe-shining to take his father and siblings back home. Nour-Mohamed is one of dozens of Ethiopian children who have crossed into the Somaliland side of Tog-wajale town on the Ethiopia-Somalia border to undertake petty trade in Hargeisa.
An immigration official based in Tog-wajale said children such as Nour-Mohamed were allowed to cross the border without question over their legal status "because they are children and they do not have travel documents". Nour-Mohamed spoke to IRIN on 26 August:
"I am the second-oldest child out of my five brothers and sisters. We live with our father in Sheedaha settlement in Tog-wajale but we are originally from Babuli [in Ethiopia's Oromo region].
"My mother died four months ago and since we did not have anything to eat, my father decided to bring us to Hargeisa; I used to go to school in Ethiopia but now I don't, I have started work as a shoe shiner.
"A big problem for me is that I do not speak enough Somali and I am often misunderstood by some of my customers. However, most of the time my friend, Mubarik, accompanies me and interprets for me as he speaks good Somali.
"When I started shining shoes, the stronger street children often took advantage of my small size and at times robbed me of all that I had made but I am now wiser, I have made friends who are also shoe-shiners and we look out for one another.
"I was robbed of all my earnings and polish by a street gang in Ida'ada district on 26 June and now I have decided to operate within Kodbur district of Hargeisa, which I believe is a little more secure than other parts of the city.
"On average, I earn about 10,000 Somaliland shillings [US$1.50] daily. I always take what I earn to my father who then saves it for us. Since my father collects food donations from our neighbours, we try to save as much as we can because our plan is to go back to Babuli where we originally lived."