NAIROBI, 28 February 2011 (IRIN) – With aid groups having pulled out of camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) and more people fleeing violence in Mogadishu, the plight of IDPs is at its most extreme, say civil society sources and local aid workers in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
“The situation is worse today than at any time in the past and the need is even greater, with more people being displaced either by the conflict or drought,” Abdulkadir Ibrahim Abkow, chairman of the Somali Civil Society Forum (SCSF), told IRIN.
He said hundreds of thousands of families living in IDP camps on the outskirts of the city were facing a dire situation as food was running out and water shortages beginning to bite.
“There have not been any aid agencies providing assistance in the past four to five months, either in the camps on the Afgoye corridor or those in the north of Mogadishu.”
An aid worker in the Afgoye corridor, who declined to be named, said vulnerability had increased since the withdrawal of many agencies and the escalation of fighting in Mogadishu in the last couple of months.
“More and more people are coming to the camps, including drought-displaced, who are weaker than even those from Mogadishu. The problem is there is no help here. They just have to fend for themselves or rely on help from other [IDPs].”
Upsurge in fighting
Fighting between government troops and insurgents in and around Mogadishu has been going on for years now but an upsurge last week has led to more displacement, worsening the situation, according to local sources.
“Hundreds of thousands of desperate families are not even receiving the bare minimal assistance to allow them to survive as the area is very difficult to access by humanitarian agencies, due to insecurity,” she said.
According to UN estimates, at least 2.4 million Somalis need help across Somalia. These include IDPs in areas controlled by Al-Shabab: 410,000 in the Afgoye Corridor, 15,200 in the Balad corridor [30km north of Mogadishu] and 55,000 others in Dayniile, northwest of Mogadishu.
The situation of those in need in the Afgoye corridor and other Al-Shabab-controlled areas is made worse by the absence of the UN’s main aid agency.
“WFP beneficiaries are throughout Somalia with the exception of Al-Shabab-controlled areas because of the [Al-Shabab]-imposed ban on WFP operations and personnel there,” said WFP.
WFP says it is providing food to one million Somalis in other parts of the country.
Abkow, the chairman of the Somali Civil Society Forum, said the access question should be dealt with “smartly and other avenues for access should be explored”.
He added: “There are Somalis, religious, traditional elders and others, who could deliver assistance anywhere. It is a question of finding the right person or group. I know it is not easy but nothing in this country is easy.”
A civil society source, who requested anonymity, told IRIN that aid agencies should be “more creative and flexible” if they want to help those in need.
“They cannot just say, ‘we give up because the majority of those in need are in areas under Al-Shabab control’; not helping them is tantamount to condemning them to death,” the source said.
An IDP, Fatuma*, told IRIN that since aid agencies had quit the camps, her family’s situation had deteriorated.
“First the food aid is gone; then the water is gone and now I cannot even go to Mogadishu to find work,” she said, adding that the fighting and the high cost of transport had limited movement to earn “even a little bit. Everything seems to be against us.”