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SOMALIA: Conditions getting worse for IDPs in Kismayo

NAIROBI, 17 June 2008 (IRIN) - Increasing insecurity, hyperinflation and lack of adequate food have exacerbated conditions for thousands of displaced families living in the southern Somali port city of Kismayo, civil society sources said.

"There are an estimated 35,000 IDPs in the city and they are living in very precarious conditions," Mohamed Adan Dheel, a civil society activist, told IRIN by phone from Kismayo, 500 km from the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

"The IDPs [internally displaced persons] in Kismayo are of three categories: those who fled the recent upsurge of violence in Mogadishu, those who were displaced by fighting in Jammame [55 km north of Kismayo], and the old ones from 1992," Dheel said on 17 June.

"There are others that can be classified as a fourth [category]: the ones who returned from the Kenyan border after failing to cross."

The IDPs, he added, were generally in poor health and lacked access to basic services, clothing, sufficient food, and shelter. "It is now very common in Kismayo to see a mother and her children from Mogadishu begging because they have no other choice," Dheel added.

One of the IDPs, Asha Mohamed Yusuf, said she had spent 15 days in the town. "I left Mogadishu after my husband and two children [aged six and five years] were killed by a shell," the 35-year-old mother of five told IRIN.

Yusuf and her other children survived the attack because they were not at home. "My other children were in Koranic school; my baby [18 months] and I were at the market," she explained. "A neighbour came to tell me what happened. After that I decided to take the rest to some place safe."

She was on the streets of Kismayo when good Samaritans brought her and her children to a displaced camp and helped her build a small shack. But the only help she got was some food and clothing that the locals gave her.

Farhan Lafoole, a local journalist, told IRIN that in the past many IDPs used to find work in the town to supplement what little help they got, but because of insecurity and inflation they could no longer find employment.

People who used to hire the IDPs can no longer afford them, he said. At the same time, the price of one kilogram of sugar has risen to 44,000 Somali shillings from 14,000 a year ago; while one kilogram of rice is now 65,000 shillings, up from 6,000 a year ago.

The value of the shilling itself has more than halved; it is now exchanging at 35,500 to the US dollar, down from 14,000 a year ago.

Many of the IDPs claim they survive on aid. For example, the UN World Food Programme (WFP), among other agencies and NGOs, has been feeding 10,000 in the town since August.

""The number increased in January to 16,000; the last distribution in April was for 16,000 IDPs," said Abdi Jama, information officer for WFP Somalia.

"WFP is planning to continue feeding Kismayo IDPs until December 2008, up to a total number of 20,000 IDPs. We will also target another 10,000 drought-affected [IDPs] in Kismayo town," he added.

Persistent insecurity in Kismayo has, however, made it very difficult for aid agencies to effectively help the displaced and those who need assistance.

Since fighting between Ethiopian-backed Somali forces and insurgents began in early 2007, about one million Somalis have fled their homes. Another estimated 6,500 civilians have been killed.

Aid workers estimate that 2.6 million Somalis need assistance. That number is expected to reach 3.5 million by the end of the year if the humanitarian situation does not improve, according to the UN.

ah/jm

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Human Rights, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs

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Copyright © IRIN 2008
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.



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