Reconnected Across Continents: Somali Mother Finds Her Daughter After 23 Years Of Separation

Giulia Balestra

Farhiyo and Rahma were separated when war broke out in Somalia in 1991. After 23 years, Rahma received a message from Farhiyo through the REFUNITE platform, and mother and daughter started communicating.

Reconnected Across Continents: Somali Mother Finds Her Daughter After 23 Years Of Separation


Farhiyo and Rahma with the REFUNITE Team in Nairobi, Kenya - August 2016

Farhiyo and Rahma with the REFUNITE Team in Nairobi, Kenya – September 2016


This is the story Rahma*, a young Somali refugee living in the United States of America and how she reconnected with her mother Fahiyo* in Kenya — after 23 years of separation. REFUNITE and partners assisted their reconnection process. The story below was told by Rahma. Details below are accurate to the best of her recollection.   

Farhiyo was working as a nursing assistant at a hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia. She was working hard to sustain her family. One day in 1991, Farhiyo had left her seven-year-old daughter at home. It was the last time Farhiyo saw Rahma.

When the first war broke out in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1991, everyone was caught by surprise. Families ran away, and many were separated from their families and friends. The neighbour who was taking care of Rahma, escaped to one of her relative’s homes. When Farhiyo finally got home, everyone had left. She pondered: What had happened to her daughter Rahma? How to find her?

Farhiyo had little time to think. She was forced to leave her empty house behind and find a safer place to stay. Together with thousands of other Somalis, she ended up in Dolo Ado refugee camp in Ethiopia. While in Dolo Ado, Farhiyo heard that many other families had been relocated to Dadaab refugee camp in North-Eastern Kenya. Hoping to find her daughter, she relocated to, and for nine years, Dadaab became her home. Following her stay in Dolo Ado, she was relocated to Kakuma refugee camp in Northern Kenya, where she got married and had two other children.

23 years after she was separated from her daughter, Farhiyo heard about REFUNITE thanks to an outreach volunteer working in the camp. Not knowing how to write or read, Farhiyo’s son helped her to register and search for Rahma through the REFUNITE platform.

Rahma grew up in the United States, very far from what was once her home. After that many years without knowing what had happened to her mother, Rahma had little hope of finding her again. When her friend told her that someone named Farhiyo was looking for her daughter on the REFUNITE platform, she did not want to believe it. It took her some time before she could send her a message. With the help of Farhiyo’s son who was replying to the messages, Rahma and Farhiyo started communicating.

On September 2016, after this first message exchange, Rahma boarded a plane to meet her mother in Kenya. It took 25 years, but mother and daughter were now together again.

Since their visit to the REFUNITE’s office in Nairobi, Rahma and Farhiyo have started the reunification process with the hopes of being resettled and finally live together with her daughter and the rest of her family in the United States.


16th of December, 2016.



*For security reasons, all names have been changed to protect the identities of the interviewees.

This interview was conducted by Alexandra Aparicio of REFUNITE in Nairobi, Kenya on the 18th August, 2016. The interview was conducted in English.