Plea to help IDPs near border with Kenya

Officials in Somalia's border town of Dobley, Lower Juba region, have appealed for urgent help for thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the area, who need food, water and shelter.

"Some 2,500 families [roughly 15,000 people] have arrived in Dobley in the last couple of months," Mohamed Mahdi, an official in charge of humanitarian affairs for the local authority, stated.

He said that a temporary camp for the displaced had been set up on the outskirts of the town after they overwhelmed their hosts. Households in the small town of 15,000 people, he added, were hosting up to two to three displaced families each in their compounds.

Mahdi said many of the displaced were arriving on foot or by truck every day.

"There is not a single 24-hour period that we don't get people," he declared.

He said the IDPs had fled a recent upsurge of violence in the capital, Mogadishu, while others had returned from the Kenyan border after failing to cross into the neighbouring country.

An aid worker, who requested anonymity, told IRIN the displaced often arrived hungry, exhausted and traumatised by the trek to Dobley. "Some come with small children with nothing to feed them or shelter them."

Maadey Oyow, 37, who arrived from Mogadishu, said: "It took me 15 days to make the journey to Dobley. I left Mogadishu after my mother and three brothers were killed by a shell that hit our home. I'm here with my wife and children to escape the danger."

''There is not a single 24-hour period that we don't get people''

Oyow and his family are sharing the camp with 560 other families. So far, the only help they have received has been from Dobley residents, he said.

"The town set up the camp for us after we became too many and they have been helping us with water and whatever else they could afford," Oyow said.

The displaced, who are reduced to eating one meal a day, were running out of food, he added.

Hassan Abdi Hashi, a member of a committee set up by the town's residents to help the displaced told IRIN they were touched by the plight of the displaced.

"As Somalis and Muslims we had to do something to help them," he said.
"They arrive with nothing and are in terrible condition."

He said most of the arrivals were women and children, "with a sprinkling of men".

Hashi said the locals had exhausted their capacity to help and were seeking the assistance of international aid agencies.

Persistent insecurity in parts of southern Somalia has limited the ability of aid agencies to provide aid. Since fighting between Ethiopian-backed Somali forces and insurgents began in early 2007 some one million Somalis have been forced to flee their homes, while an estimated 6,500 civilians have been killed.

An estimated 2.6 million Somalis need assistance. The figure is expected to reach 3.5 million by the end of the year if the humanitarian situation does not improve, according to the UN.

ah/jm