After her 90 km (55 mile) trek over dusty scrubland from Somalia to Kenya, Habiba Ali is still exhausted, sickly and trembling with emotion.
Days before, the blind, 53-year-old mother had set off Kismayu in Somalia, for the first time in her life, to be reunited with her sole surviving son in Dadaab, the world's biggest refugee settlement.
Ali's husband Ibrahim and three other sons died in Somalia's clashes.
"We used to be a big, happy family, but look where life has brought us now," she said, crouched under a tree at a U.N. refugee registration unit in the Dagahaley section of Dadaab, a settlement of three refugee camps in northern Kenya.
Encouraged by her son, she and her 8-year-old granddaughter left Kismayu on May 25.
Ali paid $100 for a truck to take her from Kismayu to the border, where her son Hussein Barre, 21, came to meet her.
The border is officially closed for security reasons so they crossed illegally, then walked 90 km over the parched land to the gates of Dadaab, the mother holding her son's wrist.
Ali now waits with a group of other refugees for registration, one of 7,000 who arrive each month.
Ali's story may seem remarkable, but it is depressingly familiar for the 275,000 refugees in Dadaab, a camp built for 90,000.
Three sons murders
"When my husband was shot in the early days of the war in 1991, I was against leaving Somalia, so I told my sons to stay to protect our small piece of land and the animals," said Ali, who lost her eyesight at 18.
Fighting blew up there again in 2007, when the Islamists controlling the area fought Ethiopian troops trying to shore up an internationally backed central Somali government.
"My family had carried on with Ibrahim's charcoal-burning business, which helped us survive in Kismayu, but in 2007 horror struck again," Ali said.
In the latest cycle of violence, al Shabaab and other allied Islamist rebels have regained control of large parts of south-central Somalia, including Kismayu.
Hussein, her youngest son, took fright and fled to Dadaab.
Then, in May of this year, her third born, Hassan, was killed, and she decided to head for Dadaab too.
Her new home is a 3-metre-square tarpaulin shelter that her son shares with three other friends.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 06 Haziran 2009, 18:04