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May 04, 2023

Five refugee mothers share what's most important

Bringing a child into the world and caring for them day in and day out is an incredibly difficult job. Parents devote endless hours to ensuring their children are safe, taken care of and have bright futures in front of them. Refugee mothers do this in the most challenging of circumstances — while running from danger, searching for safe shelter and trying to rebuild their lives. They know what is important and advocate for their children to have the best opportunities.

These five refugee mothers, and mothers from refugee-hosting communities, share what is most important to them while caring for their children far from home.

Abay wants education

Somali refugee mother Abay and her son

Abay, a mother of six, holds her youngest son, Hamza, outside their family’s shelter in the Dadaab refugee camp. She has high hopes for what her son’s future will bring now that he will have access to education.

Back in Somalia, the devastating drought made it difficult for Abay and her husband to care for their family. They were livestock farmers but lost all 100 of their cows and had no means to support their children, let alone ensure they were able to get an education.

"I never went to school,” Abay confides. “I want my children to get an education so they can take care of me in the future.”

Somali refugee mother Abay and her family

Now safe in the Dadaab refugee camp, Abay’s children will have the opportunity to thrive and grow both their bodies and their brains. Thanks to support from UNHCR, preschool, elementary, middle and high school are all available in the camp. Other available programs in the camp include adult literacy, special education, accelerated learning, vocational and technical training and university education.

Maybely wants healthcare

Guatemalan mother Maybely and her daughter

Maybely hugs her daughter, comforted by the knowledge that she is able to access the healthcare services she needs.

Maybely is a mother and member of the Valle de Jesús host community in eastern Guatemala, a welcoming community that has become a safe haven for hundreds of refugees and migrants fleeing danger in Honduras and other neighboring countries.

In June 2022—prompted by advocacy from community leaders—UNHCR and the local municipality built a brand new health center in Valle de Jesús. In rural Guatemala, where access to medical services is generally very limited, a new center means residents no longer need to walk for hours to receive medical attention. The health center has been life-changing for refugees, migrants and host community members, like Maybely.

"My daughter, Dalia, fell off her bicycle and thanks to this new health center we have more immediate attention," Maybely shares.

Olena wants psychosocial support

Ukrainian mother Olena and her son

Olena physically comforts her son with the peace of mind that he is getting the mental health care he needs after the traumatic experience of fleeing from war.

Olena and her five-year-old son Mykyta were evacuated from Mariupol, Ukraine in March 2022 after the onset of the war. They now live in Dnipro, a safer city in Ukraine, where they receive support at the Ya Mariupol humanitarian hub. The hub, which is supported by UNHCR, provides specialized support for displaced people, such as legal aid and psychosocial counseling.

Olena and her son take part in one-on-one art therapy, as well as group classes with children of different ages.

Ukrainian mother Olena and her son doing art therapy

“It is important today for children to get therapy, overcome their traumatic experiences, to communicate with their peers and other children,” Olena shares. “Thanks to the collective classes they have, they can discuss other topics, draw, and talk about their home, streets, yards, Azov sea, which they miss very much.”

Desiree wants digital literacy

Venezuelan mother Desiree and her son

Desiree, a Venezuelan mother living in Ecuador, shows her son the newfound freedom that comes with internet access and digital literacy.

Thanks to a community-led initiative, thousands of residents in her new community of Juan Montalvo will now be connected to a high-quality fiber network with Wi-Fi routers on each block.  The routers, which are being installed near homes, schools, and community centers, can connect 200 people to the internet simultaneously, most of whom have never had internet access in their homes before.

"This is very exciting. It's the first time we have internet in our neighborhood. I didn't know how to use e-mail or even how to open an account. Spreadsheets were unimaginable for me," Desiree says. Desiree received specialized training from UNHCR and is now one of the “Network Guardians” helping her new community access internet services.

Venezuelan mother Desiree and her children

The initiative is helping her expand her business and support her family in ways she never thought possible. "I can now manage my accounts, keep my financial records and write to neighbors who live further away to offer my arepas and empanadas. I can earn a living directly from home and reach people I couldn't before."

Desiree is excited for her children to grow up with access to the internet and advanced technology. She knows that, with these tools at their disposal, the future for her children is limitless.

Diyaro wants food

Somali refugee mother Diyaro and her son

Diyaro, a single mother of eight, holds her son in her arms, feeling a sense of relief and hope knowing her children will have food to eat.

Diyaro is a livestock farmer from Somalia whose livelihood was destroyed by the drought. Her family lost 66 of the 70 cows they owned, and she was forced to sell the remaining cows to pay for her family’s transportation out of the country, which now faces grave food insecurity.

Diyaro’s only concern is for her children. “I lost the only source of livestock which I had to the drought. But I am glad that I haven't lost my children to hunger.”

Somali mother Diyaro and her children

Now living safely in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp, Diyaro’s family receives support from UNHCR, ensuring her children have food to eat and she has an opportunity to get back on her feet and support her family once again.

How to help…

You can help refugee mothers support their children by becoming USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor. Your gift makes it possible for UNHCR to provide vital resources to refugees, like psychosocial support, food, education and digital literacy programs.