Mogadishu — Over the past two years, Mogadishu has seen an influx of more than 250,000 internally displaced families who have joined thousands of other Somalis displaced by war and famine in unstructured camps in the capital, according to government estimates.
Although all areas of Mogadishu have seen an increase in internally displaced persons (IDPs), Dharkenley, Hodan and Wadajir districts have taken in the most. The presence of the new arrivals has caused a number of road closures in the capital, as they create space for themselves wherever they can find it.
With these makeshift camps, health and safety concerns are growing, as the government cannot adequately police or provide services to these areas and garbage is piled up haphazardly.
"The city cannot improve safety and sanitation before the IDP situation is addressed," Ali Roble, a 32-year-old activist for the rights of displaced people, told Sabahi. "Security forces cannot access the slums inhabited by IDPs when they are conducting security operations. Therefore, there is danger that troublemakers are hiding in such areas."
Roble said the government and aid agencies should collaborate to permanently resettle the IDPs squatting in Mogadishu.
Doctor Abdirisaq Ahmed, who works in the children's and maternity ward at Banadir Hospital, cautioned that unsanitary conditions in the camps pose a risk of communicable disease outbreaks.
"The government has to do its best to address the IDP situation," Ahmed told Sabahi. "Organised camps can be created for them that are not located on roads and public spaces. Those who wish to return to their homes should be supported. If that happens, Mogadishu's security and beauty will be restored."
Mariam Abdirahman, 38, a widowed mother of four, was displaced from her home in Lower Shabelle by the drought that devastated the region in 2011.
She lives with her children in the Tarabun area in a small hut fashioned from sticks, cardboard boxes and plastic bags, which does little to shelter them from the cold or heat.
"We do not have enough food or houses to use for shelter," Abdirahman told Sabahi. "Sometimes we receive aid from agencies, but it is inconsistent and inadequate for our needs. Therefore, some of us try to find work, such as washing clothes."
Adan Ibrahim, 46, and his seven children live in Badbado camp in the Dharkenley district, along with many others who fled to Mogadishu during drought nearly two years ago. Over 1,500 displaced families in the camp are supported by local and international aid agencies.
Ibrahim was displaced from Burhakaba when the drought killed his livestock and destroyed his farm. He said he cannot go home because the problems he fled are still present.
He said the problems facing IDPs in the camps include food scarcity, lack of adequate shelter and rampant illness.
"My children become ill and there is no hospital. The food we get from the aid agencies is also insufficient," he said.
Displaced persons a top priority
Relief organisations and government officials say they are doing what they can to address these issues with the resources they have.
Fadumo Abdinur, who works as a programme co-ordinator for the Mubarak for Relief and Development Organisation, said the organisation hopes to equip IDPs with skills to create jobs and solve their problems through self-employment instead of depending on others for aid.
"We conduct trainings for IDPs and teach them trade skills such as tailoring and how to weave mats and baskets, as well as technical skills such as electrical work and construction," Abdinur told Sabahi.
She said the organisation also occasionally builds shelters for camp residents and provides them with flour, rice and other foods.
Dahir Amin Jesow, a member of the parliamentary committee on relief efforts, told Sabahi that the government is aware of the problems displaced persons face in Mogadishu and is working to find lasting solutions.
Finding a comprehensive way to address the city's sanitation problems and provide sustainable services to displaced persons are a top priority for the government, Jesow said.