Displaced and neglected in Somaliland

More than 26,000 people displaced from southern Somalia to Somaliland are not receiving adequate assistance because officials in the region, which regards itself as an independent country, give priority to those displaced within Somaliland.

"We have a different definition of IDPs [internally displaced persons] compared with the international community because the international community regards the displaced from southern Somalia as IDPs but we regard them as refugees," Ali Ibrahim, Somaliland's minister for planning and national coordination, told IRIN.

By definition, a refugee has to have crossed an international border.

There are estimated to be 4,370 families, or some 26,200 people, from southern Somalia living in Somaliland. Since Somaliland's independence is unrecognised internationally, UN agencies and NGOs classify these people as IDPs and therefore the responsibility of the Somaliland government.

Zainab Mohamoud, who chairs Gashan Women's Organization, which works solely with those displaced from southern Somalia, said these families were often without support, apart from the occasional food distribution by the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

''We are now exploring ways of recognising all the people who live in the temporary centres throughout the country as IDPs''

"These families also face legal problems and often have run-ins with the police and ordinary citizens. We try to help them by providing protection," Mohamoud said.

"Somaliland IDPs receive a piece of land from the authorities as well as health facilities, education and other services in the areas they are relocated to, but IDPs from southern Somalia who are in Hargeysa [Somaliland's capital] do not receive aid because they are regarded as refugees by the government of Somaliland."

Ibrahim told IRIN that the government's policy was changing.

"We are now exploring ways of recognising all the people who live in the temporary centres throughout the country as IDPs," he said.

He explained that a standing committee had been established in the Ministry of Rehabilitation, Reintegration and Returnees to handle IDP affairs in conjunction with international and local NGOs.

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