IDPs cause overcrowding in Galgadud towns

An estimated 50,000 people who fled violence in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, are living in difficult conditions, with inadequate food, shelter and sanitation in two towns in Galgadud region of central Somalia, local officials said on 10 October.

The displaced are in the Galgadud regional capital, Dusa Mareb, 500km north of Mogadishu, and in the nearby town of Guri-Eil.

"Our estimate is that since the end of April, between 4,000 and 5,000 families [24,000 to 30,000 people] have arrived in Dusa Mareb," Mohamed Madobe, the district commissioner, told IRIN.

Households in the town, with a population of at least 30,000, are hosting three to four displaced families each, he said. Some of the displaced have sought shelter in abandoned government buildings, while others have set up makeshift shelters, he added.

Madobe said a small number of the displaced returned to Mogadishu in late August, "but since the end of September we are seeing new arrivals. In the last week alone we had a number of buses and trucks bringing in new people".

The influx has not only doubled the town's population but contributed to high price rises of most essential commodities, he said.

An aid worker in Dusa Mareb, who requested anonymity, told IRIN that in the past four months, food prices had more than doubled. As an example, "a 50kg bag of flour has risen to 650,000 Somali shillings [about US$30] from 300,000 shillings [about $14] four months ago."

The price of sugar and rice has doubled over the same period, he added.

A similar situation prevailed in neighbouring Guri-Eil district, 60km to the south.

"Our estimate is that we are hosting about 4,800 families [28,000 people]," Ali Sheikh Mahamud, the district commissioner, said.

He said Guri-Eil has a population of about 25,000 people, and each family was hosting a large number of displaced people. "The population is at breaking point. They were poor to begin with and now they have to help relatives and friends. It is really hard."

Ahmed Moalim, a community leader, told IRIN that his family was hosting four families, "and it is like that in almost all homes".

The aid worker said the International Committee of the Red Cross had distributed food, utensils and clothes to the IDPs in August but "nothing has been distributed since". He said the rations were supposed to last for three months "but the displaced sold some of the food to buy other essential things".

The two district commissioners said the IDPs were facing food shortages, lack of shelter and medicines.

''If the sanitation conditions do not improve soon, there is a possibility of disease outbreaks, which affect not only the IDPs but the host community as well''

"They are not starving but they are not very far from it," Mahamud said.

He appealed to the government and the international community to assist both the host community and the displaced.

Abas Hassan Warsame, a doctor in Guri-Eil, said that the displaced were getting weaker, and diseases were likely to spread due to overcrowding and lack of proper sanitation facilities.

"If the sanitation conditions do not improve soon, there is a possibility of disease outbreaks, which affect not only the IDPs but the host community as well," said Warsame.

He said most patients were children and pregnant women, suffering from "nutrition-related diseases. Most suffer from poor nutrition, pneumonia, anaemia and diarrhoea."

Since intense fighting between Ethiopian-backed government troops and insurgents began in February, at least 1,000 people reportedly have been killed and more than 400,000 displaced.

ah/mw