As more internally displaced persons (IDPs) flee fighting in Mogadishu for the southern coastal city of Kismayo, conditions for thousands already living there are deteriorating sharply, local sources said.
"There are about 29,000 of us [IDPs] in Kismayo and we are living in very bad conditions; no one is helping us," Mahamud Ali, an elder in one of the IDP camps, told IRIN by telephone from Kismayo, 500km south of Mogadishu.
"The last time any assistance was provided to the displaced was in April this year. People are in a desperate situation." There are no aid agencies operating in Kismayo, he said.
The militant Islamic group al-Shabab took control of the town in August 2008 from a clan militia.
The UN World Food Programme told IRIN it last distributed 321MT to 36,000 IDPs six months ago, but following the deaths of four employees earlier this year, it was still seeking security commitments from the authorities before resuming operations.
The IDPs in Kismayo fall into two categories: those who fled the recent upsurge of violence in Mogadishu, and those who fled the capital following violence in 1992, Ali said. Up to 6,000 displaced families from Mogadishu had settled in the area in the past two months, he said.
Since fighting between Somali government forces and Islamist insurgents escalated in early May, more than 200,000 Somalis have fled their homes, according to the UN.
Ali Sheikh Yassin, deputy chairman of the Mogadishu-based Elman Human Rights Organization (EHRO), told IRIN on 7 July that 542 people had been killed and 2,137 injured since 7 May, mostly women and children.
Yassin said the figures reflected only “those our organization could verify".
Ali said IDP camps in Kismayo were overcrowded, with little sanitation. Most displaced, he said, were in poor health and lacked access to basic services, clothing, sufficient food and shelter.
"Sometimes 500 people are forced to share one latrine; it is now very common in Kismayo to see children using open spaces as toilets because they have no other choice," Ali said.
He said many of the children and elderly were showing signs of malnutrition. In the past, many IDPs found work in the town to supplement aid hand-outs but “now there is nothing. There is very little business or trade going on and the locals are as badly off as we are.”
Photo: Ruud Elmendorp
group of IDPs in Mogadishu: Many families have fled to Kismayo, where
conditions in IDP camps are deteriorating sharply, according to local
sources - file photo
Fleeing the shells
Ayan Mohamed Jama, 28, arrived in Kismayo a week ago with her six children. "I left Mogadishu after a shell killed my mother and father in the Manapolio area of north Mogadishu," Jama told IRIN.
Jama and her children survived the attack because they were not home during the incident. However, she did not know where her husband was. "I don’t know whether he is alive or dead."
It took Jama and her children 15 days to reach Kismayo. "We had nothing so we had to beg rides with trucks,” she said.
She is now living with her children in Camp Barawe, one of more than 12 IDP camps in the city. “The only help we got was from the others in the camps," she said. “We are now sharing a small shack with another family.”
Safiyo Abdi, who arrived in Kismayo 20 days ago with her two children, said she fled after her husband was killed in the Taleh area, south Mogadishu.
"I just wanted to get away from all shelling. I don’t have anything and I don’t know what I will do but I am glad I am out of Mogadishu,” Abdi said.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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