Conditions worsen for IDPs in and around Mogadishu

MOGADISHU, 14 July 2010 (IRIN) - Conditions for thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in and around Mogadishu continue to worsen daily, with hunger, disease and lack of shelter taking their toll on an already vulnerable population, according to local sources.

"We have so many problems, including continued fighting and hunger, and many of us are without shelter as the [polythene] coverings are now worn out. We live in the open where our children just wander around as they do not go to school," Mumino Mahad Hassan, who lives in the Ellesha Biyaha IDP camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu, told IRIN.

Hassan said access to food was her main challenge.

"During the day I go to Bakara market in search of food for my family. If I don’t get anything, we survive on water and go to bed hungry," she said. "What worries me most, however, is the lack of education for my child."

Mogadishu has borne the brunt of the fighting between African Union-backed government troops and two Islamist militias - al-Shabab and Hisbul-Islam. The two rival militias control much of Mogadishu and parts of south-central Somalia, while the Transitional Federal Government controls a small part of the city.

Aid workers have described the displacements in 2010 as the largest in many years.

Roberta Russo, spokeswoman for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Somalia, said the deteriorating security situation in Mogadishu was having "heavy repercussions on the lives of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children displaced in areas around Mogadishu".

She added: "We receive reports of more and more people lacking access to water, health care and proper shelter facilities. It is a catastrophe."

Fatuma Moallim Ahmed, 55, initially from Mogadishu's Hodan District but now living in Ellesha Biyaha, said fighting in the city had separated her from family members.

"Since we fled Hodan after fierce fighting, some of my relatives have died, others fled in different directions and I don't know their whereabouts, including my eldest son," Fatuma said. "I only have my youngest child with me. I don't see a future for him and the life here is so hard compared to what we had in Hodan." 

She added: "We have had no help during the really rough times. Why are these teenagers [militia] meddling with our country, killing and displacing us? These are our boys yet they are the ones doing this to us." 


Mohamed Adan, the UNHCR coordinator for south-central Somalia, said many vulnerable displaced families remain dependent "on the meagre relief assistance provided by the few agencies on the ground".

"Women, children and the aged continue to go for days without getting something to eat, thus weakening their bodily resistance to diseases," Adan said. "The level of malnourishment among children under five continues to rise day after day."

He said the structures put up by the displaced were weak and hardly protected them from the scorching sun during the day or the wind at night.

"The continued rains in the last few months made their life more miserable," he said. "They left behind everything [when they fled], only saving their lives, as they were not able to carry along personal belongings."

Access to clean drinking water in areas where the displaced have gone "is a nightmare, particularly in north Mogadishu where there is dire need for water provision," according to Adan.

"Young girls and women travel long distances to fetch water... This is sometimes dangerous for them, especially when they are unaccompanied," he said.

Mohamed Muse Ali, an IDP in Hawa Abdi camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu, said: "We are dead; nothing remains for us; no life; they feed us with weapons and shelling every day... We can’t resist these heavy weapons; nobody pays us any attention; we want the fighting stopped."

Muse said the poor were hardest hit by the fighting and the insecurity.

According to a UNHCR, more 200,000 people have become internally displaced since the beginning of 2010. Most are from Mogadishu and other parts of south-central Somalia.

Somalia had 1.4 million IDPs in 2009, the agency estimates, at least a million of whom fled Mogadishu in 2007 and 2008. At least 583,755 Somalis are refugees in neighbouring countries.