Violence in Mogadishu swells number of displaced Somalis – UN survey

1 October 2010

An estimated 410,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Somalia’s violence-wracked capital, Mogadishu, have sought refuge in the Afgooye corridor, a 20-kilometre strip of land north-west of the city, up from 366,000 in September last year, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

The rise in the number of people fleeing Mogadishu is a reflection of the deteriorating security in the city since 2007, according to the latest assessment by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“We were able to identify and map every individual building and temporary shelter. Overall there are 91,397 temporary shelters and 15,495 permanent ones in the area,” UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told reporters in Geneva.

In addition to the 410,000 IDPs living in Afgooye, there are another 55,000 displaced people in Dayniile, north of Mogadishu, 15,200 in the Bal’cad corridor in the northern periphery of city, and 7,260 others in Kax Shiiqaal in the western outskirts, according to the UNHCR survey. The agency also estimated that Mogadishu itself has an estimated 372,000 IDPs.

“Reflecting the increased population has been a rapid urbanization of the Afgooye corridor – clearly apparent in the satellite imagery. Entire new towns have replaced makeshift IDP sites with more people living in rudimentary buildings alongside the tens of thousands of shelters made of cloth and fabric,” Ms. Fleming said.

“Overall it appears that structures in Afgooye are becoming more permanent as hopes fade for a safe return to the capital any time soon. Over the past four weeks alone, almost 12,000 people have fled to the Afgooye corridor, which has become the third largest urban area in Somalia after Mogadishu and Hargeisa,” she added, referring to the capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland to the northwest.

According to UNHCR, living conditions in the Afgooye corridor are extremely difficult, with people struggling to feed themselves and lacking other basic necessities, even as the precarious security situation prevents humanitarian agencies from accessing those in need.

Some assistance is getting there through local partners, but the amounts are minuscule compared to the needs, Ms. Fleming said.

The findings of the latest assessment in the Afgooye corridor have pushed upwards the overall estimated number of IDPs in Somalia to 1.46 million. In addition, Somalia has produced some 614,000 Somali refugees, most of whom live in camps in neighbouring countries.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, has said violence remains the main impediment to human rights in Somalia.

“It should be noted that without peace in south-central Somalia, it will be difficult to envisage profound and lasting changes in the precarious human rights situation there, especially with regard to the right to life, and even basic human rights such as the right to food, shelter, education and health,” Mr. Mahiga said in speech to the interactive dialogue on human rights in Somalia.

“It is imperative therefore that all efforts are made to bring about a peaceful solution to this endless conflict,” he told the meeting in Geneva on Wednesday.

He said the UN, the African Union (AU) and the AU’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) are engaged in dialogue on the obligation to protect civilians and how to best do it in the volatile environment.

“Protecting the right to life of the Somali people should continue to be one of our pressing priorities, not just through ending the conflict, but through life support by providing adequate food, shelter, water, sanitation and education wherever those in need may be,” Mr. Mahiga said.

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