2 April 2013

Somalia: Relief Organisations Resume Work in Kismayo but Challenges Remain

Mogadishu — More than 30 Somali humanitarian organisations have resumed relief operations in Kismayo since government forces liberated the city from al-Shabaab last September, but many say the return of international organisations is critical in order to help the city's needy population.

The Kisima Peace and Development Organisation (KPDO) resumed its work in Kismayo in November as the security situation improved, registering internally displaced persons, educating children and adults, and distributing money to needy families each month.

"We have 1,289 students who take advantage of the education we offer in our centres. We teach them how to read and write Somali and offer other subjects," said KPDO director Mohamed Ahmed.

KPDO distributes $100 monthly stipends to 500 local families with help from the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Africa Educational Trust.

The Iman Relief Development Organisation (IRDO) returned to Kismayo in December, distributing food aid to local residents.

"We now feed 5,000 people each day with the support of the UN World Food Programme (WFP)," said IRDO director Abdulmalik Abdullahi Ibrahim. "You can imagine the need for food that exists and how hard it is to meet that demand."

Resuming aid activities has profoundly changed the lives of the 680 people who live at the Os camp for internally displaced persons, most of whom are women and children, said Abdi Said Mohamed, who manages the camp.

"These people are now recovering well from the problems they suffered as a result of the drought that hit south and central Somalia in 2011," he told Sabahi. "At the time, we did not get enough support because al-Shabaab denied humanitarian relief agencies access to help us. Thanks to Allah, we can now get people to help us."

Asha Farah, a 54-year-old camp resident, thanked IRDO and the WFP for providing her and her seven children with food, but stressed that her family also is in need of relief in the form of healthcare and education.

Pleas for greater international help:

Although organisations are feeding and handing out stipends to Kismayo's hungry and destitute population, its residents still need international humanitarian aid agencies to return to provide greater relief, according to Mohamed Sheikh Yusuf, head of relief co-ordination for the interim administration in Kismayo.

In regions under al-Shabaab's control, relief agencies have been repeatedly banned, exacerbating the humanitarian crises. During al-Shabaab's five-year reign in Kismayo, this policy kept international agencies from establishing a presence there.

Since al-Shabaab lost control of Kismayo, the city has received WFP food aid, but it is insufficient to feed the city's entire population, Yusuf told Sabahi. Although WFP workers have come to the city, the UN agency has yet to open an office there.

"We have facilitated humanitarian agencies, both local and international, that work within the city of Kismayo, so that they can help the people who are suffering," Yusuf said.

"We urge all international organisations to return to Kismayo because the city has become peaceful since the departure of al-Shabaab, and we promise international organisations that we will play a big role in ensuring their security," he said.

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