'I rely on my children, who cares for them?'

More on UAE and charity: Woman raising five children grateful for the aid of the Red Crescent.

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ABU DHABI // Clutching her youngest son's shoulder like a walking stick, LA limps, back bowed, as her abaya drags on the floor after her. She wears a niqab, only her eyes showing.

She is not so old but, after years of suffering, the 46-year-old struggles physically.

Orphaned before she was 10, LA was given away in marriage at a young age.

An unhappy union left her divorced and barely able to provide for herself or her five children.

"I was still playing, I didn't know anything about marriage," she says.

Although the court ordered her former husband to pay alimony, he earns only Dh3,000 a month and has another wife. LA was left relying on the help of "kind strangers".

Her children, she says, came with their own burdens.

The eldest, a boy, was abused and is now suicidal. Medical records show that psychiatrists have concluded he is depressed.

"He says he is just a burden on me and no one cares about us, so he might as well be dead," she says.

The eldest girl appears to be overweight but doctors say she, too, is psychologically scarred by neglect.

"She doesn't eat, the doctor said it was all psychological."

After bouncing from one home to another, with an unstable source of income, hope came in the form of Red Crescent staff.

After speaking to several charities, Red Crescent was one of the first to respond, LA says.

Life now - thanks to Dh3,000 a month in food aid - is a little more comfortable. Years-long unpaid grocery bills are slowly being paid off. But life is still far from easy.

"I rely on my children to take care of me, but who will take care of them?" she says.

Ramadan is the one month when she knows help is not far away.

As many seek to find needy families to provide them with iftar meals, the Red Crescent steps up its efforts.

Ramadan is a good time to remind those more fortunate of "our situation", she says.