Last Updated: Friday, 25 July 2014, 12:52 GMT

Somalia: Insurgents divert famine IDPs from aid

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 6 September 2011
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Somalia: Insurgents divert famine IDPs from aid, 6 September 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e69bfaa2.html [accessed 28 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Al-Shabab insurgents have prevented thousands of people fleeing famine-struck parts of Somalia from reaching humanitarian assistance in Mogadishu, trucking them instead to a makeshift camp 50km south of the capital, where aid is severely limited.

"These were people who were going to Mogadishu in search of help. Instead they were brought here," said a Mogadishu-based journalist, who visited the K50 camp, where some 45,000 people now live in inadequate shelters amid the rising threat of disease and hunger.

"They have become pawns. I don't think they understand why they are not getting the same attention as those in Mogadishu," he said, requesting, like almost everyone who talks about Al-Shabab, not be identified by name.

While hundreds of thousands of people in Mogadishu have access to food and other humanitarian assistance – despite a rise in militia-manned checkpoints - insecurity prevents many international aid agencies from reaching places outside the capital, even those as close as K50.

One aid worker in the city told IRIN that Al-Shabab was stopping the displaced from reaching the city "for two reasons. One, they don't want people to abandon their area of control. Two, they don't want to be seen as unable to help the needy and their leaving is a vote of no-confidence in the group."

Inside K50 camp, "there are roughly 7,500 families [45,000 people]. They have many problems, including hunger, shortage of water, lack of shelter and very poor sanitation," a Somali aid worker there told IRIN.

"Their health is deteriorating by the day," he added.

When they arrive, mainly from the famine-hit southern regions of Bay and Bakool, "many are malnourished and are carrying children who are also malnourished. In the one day I was in the camp, six children died; some days even more die," he said.

In a 5 September report, the UN Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) said at least four million people were in crisis in Somalia, "with 750,000 people at risk of death in the coming four months in the absence of adequate response".

The unit said tens of thousands of people had already died, more than half of them children. "Assuming current levels of response continue, famine is expected to spread further over the coming four months."

Children worst hit

Shafie Mohamed Abdi, a volunteer doctor who runs a clinic in K50, told IRIN almost all the children in the camp were malnourished and suffering from hunger-related diseases. "Many of the pregnant and lactating mothers and older people are also succumbing to hunger."

He said they had had measles and a diarrhoea outbreak in the camp. "Some of the children arrive here already suffering from so many ailments due to their weakened state."

Abdi said the clinic was short "on almost everything. We need medicines and more volunteer health workers. There is too much need and very little help."

He said there were just two doctors serving all 45,000 camp residents, "all of whom need immediate medical help of one sort or another".

Abdi said the most urgent need was a therapeutic feeding centre in the camp.

"Many of the children who arrive here are so weak they are unable to eat normally."

Sheikh Abdullahi Sheikh Ali, a member of a local drought committee that has been helping the displaced, said aid agencies willing to help could do so through the committee. "We will make sure that any aid meant for them [IDPs] reaches them."

He said that some aid agencies were providing monthly rations to the displaced. "The situation is better than it was before but the need is still there.

"There should be no doubt that we will deliver. I don't know what other guarantees I can give."

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