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Aid Agencies Face Conflict, Shortages in Mogadishu

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More than 300,000 Somalis are seeking refuge from drought and famine in the capital Mogadishu.  But, because of security problems, many aid agencies have been unable to get help to these vulnerable people.

Hungry and weak, refugees from the drought-stricken areas of south-central Somalia arrive in the capital, Mogadishu.

They will set up their camps anywhere they can find space.  But there are no facilities here, and the city has few resources to provide assistance for the displaced.

This 26-year-old man, who declined to give his name, arrived at the Badbaado camp from the Bakool region.  That area was one of the first to fall into famine.  He was hoping to get help in Mogadishu, but so far, he says, he has received very little.

"There's no food, we are given dry food but it's not enough, we were given one plastic bag. We use that one plastic bag and we sleep on the floor," he said.

While aid agencies are lining up to help, the lack of security is making it too difficult for them to distribute food.

This footage, obtained by VOA, shows looters ransacking a World Food Program delivery of dry food at Badbaado camp this month.  At least five people were killed in the incident, and the U.N. agency has not been back to the camp since.

WFP spokesperson Susannah Nicol says delivering food is not a simple task.

"It's not a case of just dumping food, you can't just dump, you have to target the people who need it," said Nicol.  "It's a very challenging environment [and] the security situation is by no means safe.   So you have to try and ensure as best you can and in the safest manner for people who are actually getting the food, as well as those who need it, to be able to have control systems and to be reaching people through your partners in an organized fashion."

At this feeding center, Badbaado camp's residents receive a simple bowl of rice each day.

Much of the food is being provided by local organizations as well as Islamic aid groups.  Because of their religious affiliation, they have more access than western groups.

Doctor Iftiqar Mohammed is the Director of Islamic Relief in Somalia.  He says western aid agencies should work more closely with those who are actually on the ground.

"[From] my point of view, the coordination is very good at Nairobi level, but here it is lacking," said Mohammed.  "Even though there is coordination mechanism, due to security concerns, it is, you know.  And lack of monitoring - say one partner says we are implementing in this area, what is the mechanism to see whether it is the reality?"

Hundreds of camps have sprung up across the capital in the last few months, even in the ruins of an Italian Cathedral.

Many of the children are sick, and the families have had no contact with any aid agencies.

Hawa arrived here 20 days ago with her five children. They have had little food.  Her youngest child is dying of measles.

"For the sake of God, we're just waiting for assistance from you, the international community," said Hawa.  "There's no other place we're expecting help from."

As conditions at the camp continue to worsen, the displaced people of Mogadishu can only pray that help is on the way.

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