Feature: Displaced persons in Somalia on receiving end as floods wreak havoc

MOGADISHU– The internally displaced persons in Somalia are once again staring at a humanitarian crisis as torrential rains accompanied by floods wreak havoc in their makeshift dwelling place.

Both the government and relief agencies have sounded alarm over a looming crisis as flooding intensified in the strife-torn Horn of Africa state which has in the last one year grappled with acute drought.

The Somali government last week sent emergency appeal to humanitarian agencies to scale up response to flooding while insisting that millions of people especially those sheltered in the camps for the displaced were at risk of contracting fatal diseases.

At an Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camp in Mogadishu, Amina Sidow, a mother of five, has been spending sleepless nights as their makeshift camp which has now been battered by the vagaries of weather is fast giving way.

“We have not had adequate sleep for several nights now,” Aamina told Xinhua in an interview on Wednesday. “We are forced to remain standing throughout the night because our house is flooded,” she added.

Drops of water can still be seen as the tarpaulin which is now soaked in water drips, leaving no room for warmth in the house.

“These are the most difficult times for people who live in IDP camps,” Aamina says as she assembles wares in her house which for years now has been home to her children. It (house) no longer shelters us from the rain.”

Like millions of others uprooted from their homes by drought, clan skirmishes or escape from the militant group al-Shabab, Aamina has to contend with the difficult situation she could do little to prevent during the dry season.

The government and humanitarian agencies are now changing course from addressing a severe drought which almost degenerated into a famine last year, to the effects of too much rain.

Aamina says she now has to find urgent options to address the situation noting her children were increasingly exposed to diseases.

“Every day the situation is becoming worse because the rains keep increasing,” said Aamina.

Mogadishu alone has 350,000 internally displaced people cramped up in camps across the city, some of which have become permanent shelter for thousands who found way here several years ago.

With 2 million people now out of their homes, resources become stretched and the most vulnerable and unreachable are further pushed into risk of death.

“The IDPs, a majority of whom are women and children, live in poorly constructed shelters, exposing them to harsh weather and have limited access to hygiene facilities, thus heightening the risk of communicable diseases,” the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry said Sunday in its monthly update.

“In some areas, disease outbreaks such as AWD/cholera are already increasing,” the government said, calling for scaled up response in southern, south west and central regions.

Rahmo Muse, who is based in the same camp as Aamina, told Xinhua the situation in the camp was fast deteriorating.

“So far we have not had anyone to help us; either the government or humanitarian agencies,” said Muse.

“If help does not come our way soon, the risk of a major catastrophe is real,” she added. For IDPs in Somalia, the rains are accompanied by more curses than blessings.

The risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea become the more disturbing for parents as the children are highly predisposed.

“We fear the outbreak of diarrhea and malaria affecting our children. We need blankets and mosquito nets to cushion our children from these diseases,” Mowlid Bishar, a hawker in one of the camps, told Xinhua.

For Bishar, it is a double tragedy as hunger and the risk of disease conspire during such events.

“We are already hungry because there is no food but the thought of disease only worsens our plight,” said Bishar.
Source: Xinhua