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SOMALIA: Northern Mogadishu IDPs at the mercy of the elements

NAIROBI, 20 June 2008 (IRIN) - Exposure to the elements after heavy rains washed away shelters, and lack of adequate food, have hit many Somalis who fled the capital, Mogadishu, to seek refuge in the northern outskirts, local and civil society leaders said.

"At least nine people, including a pregnant woman and two children have died in the last two weeks," Abikar Sheekhay, a medical doctor who visits the camps, told IRIN. "The main cause of the deaths was exposure to the elements and lack of food."

"These people are now living in the open with no shelter at all," he added.

The dead were from camps in Ceel Ma'an [35 km north of Mogadishu]. Flash floods following heavy rains had washed away many of the makeshift shelters the IDPs had erected, leaving them to sleep in the open, he added.

Unlike the hundreds of thousands who fled southwards, the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the northern areas have generally received much less attention and assistance.

Most of them, sources said, rely almost entirely on rations provided by the UN World Food Programme (WFP). The agency has, since 2006, been providing food assistance to 2,900 households - both IDPs and host communities - in Warsheikh district.

"WFP Somalia provided food assistance to the IDPs in north Mogadishu (Ceel Macaan, Galgalato and Ceel Cadde)[all part of Warsheikh district] for the months of March and April 2008, with total beneficiaries [being] 1,710 households," said Denise Brown, deputy country director for WFP Somalia.

"We have just finalised distribution plans and food assistance is expected to reach these communities by the end of this month," she added.

Isse Mahamud Ilmi of the Madina Foundation, a local charity, told IRIN that the IDPs in the northern outskirts were estimated at 27,000. "It seems they don't get the same attention that those between Mogadishu and Afgoye [south] get.

"We are appealing to the aid agencies in Somalia to come and see the situation in these camps," he added. "The displaced, mostly women and children, urgently need shelter, food, water and medicine; and more people are arriving daily."

The IDP health situation, Sheekhay said, was deplorable. "There is not a single clinic serving these camps in the north," he told IRIN. "The only medical personnel they see are people like me who volunteer whenever we can. But even when I prescribe something there are no drugs to give them."

Omar Aray, a 39-year-old father who lost a four-year-old child, told IRIN that he arrived at Ceel Ma'an in May. "Our [shack] was washed away seven days ago by water," he told IRIN. "When we regrouped, my boy was dead."

The children, he added, had been weakened by scarcity of food and the cold wet weather. "We were eating once a day and then we ran out of food," he said.

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.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Children, (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs


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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