News / Africa

    Displaced Somalis Seek Food in Dangerous Mogadishu

    A severely malnourished Somali child receives Oral Rehydration Salts at Mogadishu's Banadir hospital on July 28, 2011
    A severely malnourished Somali child receives Oral Rehydration Salts at Mogadishu's Banadir hospital on July 28, 2011
    Joe DeCapua

    Somalis trying to escape drought and famine continue to flock to Mogadishu, despite renewed fighting between pro-government forces and the militant group al-Shabab. Many of those going to the capital had fled the city months and years earlier to escape the fighting.

    Desperate search for food and water

    “In Mogadishu, we’ve been concerned because more than 100,000 Somalis have recently moved into the city in search of food, basically. These are people who are coming from areas in the south and central part of Somalia, where many of those areas have now been officially declared famine areas,” Ron Redmond, spokesman for UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, who’s in Nairobi.

    To risk coming to an embattled city is a telling sign.

    “Mogadishu itself is probably the most dangerous city in the world. The security situation there is extremely bad,” he said.

    There are some food stocks in the city that are being distributed by local charities.

    “The head of our Somalia operation was in a district just west of Mogadishu,” said Redmond, “and a local charity was handing out food and basically a riot ensued where there was too little food and too many people.”

    Coming home


    Many of those arriving in Mogadishu used to call the city home.

    “Most of the internally displaced in that region left Mogadishu are living in a corridor about 30 miles to the west of Mogadishu called Afgooye. And there are something like 400,000 people, who fled Mogadishu to get help out there. Now you’ve got a hundred thousand people from elsewhere going into Mogadishu because they are so desperate to get assistance.

    UNHCR has been distributing supplies within and around Mogadishu. But it hasn’t been easy.

    “Some supplies can get into Mogadishu. The situation there though is that it is so insecure. The area that our Somalia operation representative visited the other day was only 500 meters from the front lines. And there were thousands of people there jostling to get food. Getting it out there and getting it distributed around the city is the problem. It’s just so dangerous and so difficult to operate there,” said Redmond.

    UNHCR is sending assessment teams around the country to determine the scope of the aid needed.

    Outside Somalia

    People displaced in Somalia often become refugees in neighboring countries.

    “The numbers of people arriving in both Kenya and Ethiopia from Somalia is continuing at a pretty steady pace. Right now in Ethiopia’s Dollo Ado area, we’re seeing about 300 people a day arriving. That’s down from about 2,000 three or four weeks ago. We don’t know the reasons for that. But they’re coming in in a very bad state,” he said.

    The malnutrition figures for children are alarming.

    “About one out of three children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, which is terrible. One of our nutritionists there said that she hasn’t seen this kind of rate in her 20 year career in and around the Horn of Africa. Even more worrisome she said is that there is a 5 to 18 year old age group and within that group she’s never seen such a high incidence of malnutrition either. Usually, it’s the under fives that are severely affected,” he said.

    Redmond said at Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, about 1 in 4 under five year olds are coming across severely malnourished.

    About 1,300 people a day are arriving at Dadaab. “We are sending people to the outskirts of the camp to identify the malnutrition cases and get help to them because the camp is so packed that all the new arrivals are staying on the outskirts of the camp,” he said.

    Need more land

    The Dadaab complex was built to hold 90,000 people, but estimates say there are now 350,000 to 400,000 people there. That overcrowding has prompted Human Rights Watch (HRW) to call on the Kenyan government to provide more land for new camps and to open an existing, but unused, camp for the Somalis.

    “There currently is not enough space for the large number of Somali refugees that are pouring into Kenya,” said Neela Ghoshal, HRW’s East Africa researcher, adding, “For several years, the existing refugee camps have been far beyond capacity. And yet the Kenyan government has refused to provide additional lands to build refugee camps, despite promises from donors that they would be willing to fund these refugee camps.”

    She said the Kenyan government does have some legitimate concerns, including security and environmental concerns.

    “We understand these concerns. But we want to emphasize that these concerns don’t detract from the responsibility of the Kenyan government to permit legitimate asylum seekers to enter Kenya,” said Ghoshal.

    Human Rights Watch has requested numerous times that Kenyan officials open up a section of the Dadaab complex that has been available since last November, but remains unused.

    “The camp is called Ifo and the extension is known as Ifo Extension or Ifo II. It’s a camp that, according to UNHCR, would fit 40,000 additional refugees. According to the government, it would fit 80,000. However, even if that camp was built, there are currently over 390,000 Somali refugees and asylum seekers in a space that is built for 90, 000,” she said.

    Even if IFO II is opened, she said, it still wouldn’t be enough. She said donors are willing to pay for more camps.

    “We’d like to see the Kenyan government go ahead and accept that additional refugee camps be built and then call on donors and the UNHCR to provide those refugee camps,” she said.

    Other land in northeastern Kenya may be suitable for the camps.

    “We know that there’s an additional piece of land in northeastern province near Dadaab,” Ghoshal said, “and this space has been identified by UNHCR, at least as far back as a year and a half ago,” she said.

    You May Like

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Spanish Warrants Point to Russian Govt. Links to Organized Crime

    Links to several Russians, some of them reputedly close Putin associates, backed by ‘very strong evidence,’ Spanish judge says

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    Iraq needs stable, central government to push back against Islamic State, US says, but others warn that Baghdad may not have unified front any time soon

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora