MELISSA BLOCK, host:
NPR's Frank Langfitt has been sending us a series of stories from one of the most dangerous places in the world: Somalia. Hundreds of people die there each week in fighting. The country is two decades into a civil war. Still, every morning, most Somalis wake and try to live their lives.
Frank Langfitt visited the capital, Mogadishu, and talked to residents about how they cope.
FRANK LANGFITT: Abdi Fatah Ali Hassan sleeps in his shoes. Given his address, he has to. A high school economics teacher, Ali Hassan lives on the front lines here, which means mortars hit his neighborhood all the time.
Mr. ABDI FATAH ALI HASSAN (Teacher): We are ready to run. All our things are ready. I and my shoes, we are sleeping together.
(Soundbite of laughter)
LANGFITT: After the first mortar hits, Ali Hassan races through the dark to the nearest shelter, a concrete house. Mortars aren't his only problem. Another is shake-downs.
Mogadishu is mostly lawless. Over the last four months, Ali Hassan says clan militias in his neighborhood have robbed him of $700 - that's more than half his annual salary as a teacher.
Mr. HASSAN: (Through Translator) I hate being robbed but we cause some of the problem ourselves. These militias are from the same clan we belong to. So it's a problem created by the community.
LANGFITT: Somalia's weak transitional government provides almost no services. Fatima Abdi Ali has lived without running water for two decades. She lights her apartment with kerosene lamps because she can't afford electricity. Ali relies on the $200 her son sends her each month from South Africa, and the small profit she makes buying and reselling honey from a bee farm outside of town.
But to get to the bee farm, she must take a mini-bus through a checkpoint controlled by Islamist rebels called al-Shabab.
Ms. FATIMA ABDI ALI: (Through Translator) It's not safe to go there, but I have no alternative. If I had another alternative, I would not do this job because it's dangerous. Sometimes they steal your money.
LANGFITT: And she says, late one afternoon, they killed a fellow passenger.
Ms. ALI: (Through Translator) They shot a man because he did not participate in afternoon prayers.
LANGFITT: Somalia's government claims loose military control over more than half of Mogadishu. Al-Shabab, which has pledged allegiance to al-Qaida, controls the rest. The group wants to destroy the U.S.-backed government here and set up a strict Islamic state. Some Somalis are fighting back.
Abdullahi Hassan is a businessman who sells sugar, flour and building materials. He helps finance a moderate Islamist militia that is battling al-Shabab.
Mr. ABDULLAHI HASSAN (Businessman): Actually, they know me. I'm one of the targets.
LANGFITT: Hassan travels around town with six or seven armed guards. Have they tried to kill you?
Mr. HASSAN: Many times. The last attack, they hit our car, but luckily, I survived it, but another three has been killed.
LANGFITT: How did they hit the car? What did they do?
Mr. HASSAN: With the (unintelligible), they call RPG7.
LANGFITT: That's a rocket-propelled grenade. Fartuun Abdisalan Adan lives near a trash-strewn roundabout. It's well inside the government lines, but she says nowhere is safe. A couple of weeks ago, a woman tossed a grenade in a market there, killing a handful of street kids.
Ms. FARTUUN ABDISALAN ADAN (Elman Peace & Human Rights Center): Every morning, it is scary. You are thinking, okay, this - today, we have survived, how about tomorrow?
LANGFITT: Adan runs the Elman Peace & Human Rights Center. It's a nongovernmental organization that, among other things, teaches teenage boys electrical and mechanical skills. Adan wants them to find jobs so they don't join militias or al-Shabab. Every morning, she must check to make sure boys from al-Shabab don't slip into her training sessions.
Ms. ADAN: We wanted to help them, but at the same time, we are afraid.
LANGFITT: Do you have to frisk the kids when they come in?
Ms. ADAN: Yes.
LANGFITT: Because you are afraid they might have a bomb?
Ms. ADAN: Absolutely.
LANGFITT: Adan returns home by 4:00 each afternoon for safety. She describes herself as middle class. Evenings are more worldly than you might expect.
Ms. ADAN: We have electricity. We have a TV. We have Internet. We have everything. You can watch every channels in Mogadishu.
LANGFITT: Tell me, in the last week, what did you see that would surprise me?
Ms. ADAN: I watch Oprah.
LANGFITT: As in Winfrey.
Ms. ADAN: I watch the BBC News.
LANGFITT: Adan buys her electricity and water from private companies. She bought a satellite dish for $150. Adan returned to Mogadishu a few years ago after living in Canada. As difficult as life is here, she has no plans to leave.
Ms. ADAN: I want to stay as much as I can. We committed this work, we're doing it, and we wanted to make a difference.
LANGFITT: There's a personal reason, as well. Adan's husband ran a similar vocational program but it tapped into the labor market for child soldiers. Warlords became angry, Adan says, and had him killed. Amid the ruin and violence of Mogadishu, she wants to finish what her late husband started.
Frank Langfitt, NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.