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Displaced Persons in Mogadishu Brace for Rainy Season

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

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Springtime rains have started to fall in Mogadishu, sparking worries among internally displaced persons (IDPs) that heavier downpours could worsen their misery. "Displaced families living in this camp are concerned that the temporary shelters that accommodate them might not be enough to protect against the falling rain," said Fadumo Ali, a 38-year-old mother of five living at the Tarabuunka Camp in Mogadishu's Hodan district.

"So far, rains have not been really heavy so no real damage has been done in the IDP camps," she told Sabahi. "But in the event that heavy rain starts to fall as expected, the consequences will be dire for the IDPs because most of the displaced families are not housed in suitable refugee camps that can protect them from these rains, making their situation even worse."

Last year, heavy rains in and around Mogadishu caused deadly flooding that inundated IDP camps and exposed residents to an outbreak of cholera. In the past two years, Mogadishu's population of displaced people living in camps swelled by an influx of 250,000 people seeking shelter from other parts of Somalia.

"Rain is God's gift, which could be of some comfort to farmers and herders, but for IDPs who live in the camps of Mogadishu, it brings nothing but more problems and makes their situation even worse, unless they get urgent humanitarian assistance," said Dahir Sheikh Ismail, 56, a manager in the Shabelle River Camp in Mogadishu's Bondhere district.

"If rain falls heavily over the next several weeks, this will lead to worsening conditions for IDPs," Ismail told Sabahi. He called on the Somali government and relief agencies "to move quickly to help IDPs and provide plastic covers and mosquito nets as a matter of urgency".

Precarious conditions:

Most of Mogadishu's IDP camp population lives in huts made of cardboard and sticks that provide little protection from the cold and heavy rain. Halimo Ibrahim, 46, who lives at the Bulo Barwaqo Camp in Warta Nabada district, told Sabahi that she and other internally displaced people are in dire need of stronger material for their shelters.

"We are in need of urgent assistance, especially shelter equipment, which is the most pressing [need] for the time being," Ibrahim said. "My seven children and I live in a small hut made of wood and old cardboard that could not face severe winds and heavy rain."

With the start of the rainy season, Somali health authorities warn that heavy rains could exacerbate sanitary problems at IDP camps, in turn increasing the risk of cholera and diarrhoea outbreaks, authorities said. "Many IDPs in Mogadishu and its environs, especially women and children, face the risk of being exposed to diseases that come with rainfall due to bad sanitation in the camps," Lul Mohamud, who heads the maternal and paediatric ward at Benadir Hospital, told Sabahi.

"We have several cases of acute diarrhoea, most of which are among the displaced population in the camps, and we are extremely worried that the situation will get worse with more rainfall," she said.

Efforts to repatriate displaced persons:

Local organisations are working around-the-clock to address the immediate needs of displaced persons, said Ibrahim Muhidin, an official with the Mogadishu-based Barwaqo Foundation.

"Displaced people live in deplorable conditions and have many needs, but with the rainy season upon us, Barwaqo is focusing on providing clean water and plastic covers [for their huts]," he told Sabahi. He said other local non-governmental organisations and their international partners are also delivering food aid to camps on a daily basis. But as a long-term solution, some relief agencies are working to help return people to their original regions to alleviate the burden in the camps.

Mohamed Idle, deputy director of the Qatari Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) in Somalia, said his organisation is working with several local humanitarian organisations to implement a new initiative that would repatriate, on a voluntary basis, tens of thousands of IDPs living in Mogadishu and help them re-settle in their villages.

"[We are] facilitating each family that returns to the area it was driven out of by providing [transportation and] assistance that could help them for several months," he told Sabahi. "This assistance includes a sum of money that would allow the family to survive until they settle in and become reintegrated in their community and are once again able to lead a normal life."

"We expect around ten thousand displaced families to benefit from the humanitarian project and the first part of the plan to repatriate IDPs," he said.



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