SOMALIA: Exodus continues despite lull in Mogadishu fighting
An IDP camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu (file photo)
NAIROBI, 21 May 2009 (IRIN) - Hundreds of families are still fleeing the Somali capital, Mogadishu, despite relative calm in the past week following intense fighting between insurgents and government troops.
They are joining hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps on the outskirts of the city and in safer neighbourhoods inside Mogadishu.
"Even today [21 May], many families are leaving because they believe the current break in the fighting is just temporary," Ali Sheikh Yassin, the deputy chairman of the Mogadishu-based Elman Human Rights Organisation (EHRO), told IRIN. “I think many people have lost hope that this city will ever return to normal.
“Many markets and businesses have shut down because of the security situation." He said Suuq Ba’ad in the north, the second-largest open-air market in Mogadishu, was closed.
"There is not a single store or shop open there," Yassin said. "This market did not close at the height of the conflict in 2007-2008.”
People’s livelihoods have been destroyed, “so anyone who can leave is doing so”, he added.
The impact of the current displacement is also being felt in neighbourhoods that had escaped much of the recent violence in the city, such as Madina in the southwest, and Huriwa in the north.
"Almost every family in these neighbourhoods is hosting one or more families," Yassin said.
Relying on relatives
Mogadishu resident Abdiwali Nur returned to the city with his family from an IDP camp in April, hoping the situation would improve. However, he is staying with a relative in Madina, with his wife and three children.
"We could not afford to go the IDP camps again so my relative has given us a small place in his house,” Nur said. “All the neighbours are hosting people.”
Another returnee, Halima Warsame, mother of five, fled her home in Towfiq, north Mogadishu, last week to Arbiska area near Afgoye, 30km south of Mogadishu, where she was previously an IDP.
"I left a month ago thinking this was the end of our ordeal but I was wrong," Warsame said. "I thought with the Ethiopian troops gone and the new government [in place] everything would be alright, only it got worse.
"I don’t see any hope that our situation will ever improve."
Warsame's husband and son were killed in 2007 after a shell landed on their shop. She told IRIN their situation in the camp was desperate: “We have no shelter from the constant rain."
Sporadic shelling has been continuing between government forces and insurgents since major clashes ended on 17 May.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the number of people displaced since 8 May has reached 45,000.
In a briefing note on 20 May, the agency said the deteriorating security situation was hampering aid delivery.
"Even local agencies that have often provided a lifeline to the IDPs are encountering new risks as they try to help out the needy,” UNHCR said.
It said the most urgent needs were shelter and non-food items, “which humanitarian agencies led by UNHCR plan to provide first to over 100,000 people in the Afgoye corridor and neighbourhoods in northwest Mogadishu, and afterwards to others in other affected areas of the city as soon as the security permits".