Insecurity “no excuse” to neglect IDPs

Aid agencies should use “traditional structures” to reach long-neglected internally displaced people (IDPs) living in conflict-prone areas around the capital, Mogadishu, civil society officials say.
“Most of the IDP populations across the country live in appalling conditions, but the worst are those living around Mogadishu,” Abdullahi Shirwa, of Civil Society in Action, an umbrella organization, told IRIN.

The needs of hundreds of thousands of IDPs across the country were not being met, Shirwa said, adding that IDPs around Mogadishu had the added problem of “total lack of security, and very little access to help”.

He said the security issue had been used by agencies as the main reason for “little or no assistance to the IDPs. Unfortunately, insecurity has become a way of life in the country and can no longer be used as an excuse not to help people in desperate need.”

Shirwa said there were traditional structures that can help in delivering aid to the displaced. “They can make use of elders, women’s groups and religious leaders – but they don`t.”

He said more needed to be done to reach the displaced. “In my opinion, fewer than 20 percent of IDPs’ needs are being met at the moment.”

Abject misery

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, estimates there are 896 000 IDPs in the Mogadishu-Afgoye corridor.

Roberta Russo, spokesperson for UNHCR Somalia, told IRIN yesterday “the needs of the people are not adequately addressed and a lot more should be done to assist the growing number of displaced.
“The main problem of humanitarian agencies is the lack of access to the needy population, due to the highly insecure environment.” 

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Somalia told IRIN that access, security and funding were “considerable constraints”.
 According to OCHA, eight aid workers had been killed this year alone.
“It is important to note that funding is also a considerable constraint on humanitarian programming throughout Somalia. The Consolidated Appeal Process is funded at only 54 percent of the estimated needs. Some sectors have received as little as 10 percent of the resources they require for adequate programming,” said the agency.
Asha Sha’ur, a senior member of civil society, told IRIN many of the IDPs lived in overcrowded camps, where most of the shelters were built from twigs, recycled cardboard and old clothes.
“The lucky ones may get a plastic sheeting to cover it”, despite the fact that some of the IDPs pay rent to the owners of the land, she said.

Sha’ur, who visited the camps on 28 September, said: “These people are living in the most miserable conditions. It is heart-breaking. I honestly don’t know how else to describe it.”

She said the displaced had no access to clean water and sanitation conditions were bad. “Thousands of families are left with no latrines.”

She said the displaced were getting a “fraction of what they need. This is intolerable.”

“No more excuses”

Humanitarian agencies have to find creative ways of reaching the needy, Sha’ur said, adding: “I don’t think they can hide behind insecurity any longer.”

Ali Sheikh Yassin, deputy chairman of the Mogadishu-based Elman Human Rights Organization (EHRO), told IRIN more people were likely to be displaced in the coming weeks and months.
“Already we are getting reports that people are leaving Kismayo due to fears of violence and will add to the number of displaced.”

Many of the displaced lack protection and, in some cases, had been subjected to sexual violence.
“There is some sort of protection in populated areas but when they go out of the camps to collect firewood or grass to sell, there is no protection,” Yassin said, adding that agencies must pressure those who control areas to provide “not only access but protection for the displaced.

This means they have to deal with people they may not want to deal with,” he said.
“The alternative is to let people die.”

Khadija Farah, a 40-year-old mother of six, has been an IDP in the Arbiska area, 20km south of Mogadishu, since 2007. She told IRIN that life in the camps was becoming even more difficult. Her family used to get 75kg of sorghum, 10kg of beans, 10kg of porridge and 3l of cooking oil for a month.
“Since June, we are getting half of that. It was nowhere near enough before and now it is even worse.”

Farah said their home was a shack made out of cardboard and plastic. “We are alive but that is all.”