Monday, 20 April 2009

SOMALIA: Second thoughts about returning to Mogadishu

NAIROBI, 14 April 2009 (IRIN) - Mother-of-five Fadumo Hussein wishes she was still living at a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) instead of in the makeshift dwelling in Mogadishu she returned to three months ago. "At least at the camp we had health care; here we are cut off… We have had no help, except from the MCH [Mother-Child Health clinic] where we get some medicines,” she said. Hussein returned home after Ethiopian troops, which had been supporting the forces of the Transitional Federal Government, left the country. She found her home destroyed and now lives in a hut on her compound. Many Mogadishu residents like Hussein recently returned from IDP camps, but are facing healthcare and livelihood challenges. Only mothers and children benefit from the services of local MCH clinics, which are supported by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Zahara Abdullahi, who runs the MCH in Yaqshiid District near Hussein's home, said the facility, which provides health support for the community, had been overwhelmed by the number of people seeking help. Because of the improving security situation in the area, she said, "we are seeing a lot more traffic." Yaqshiid District, north of the city, was one of the worst affected by the violence. "We are seeing a lot more cases of malnutrition," Abdullahi said. "We provide the medicines we have, but we cannot give the food they need."

Back to the IDP camps?

Abdullahi said a number of families had returned to IDP camps because "they think they get better help there." Hibo Mohamed would like to return to an IDP camp but cannot afford the fare. "We were better off in the camp than here; the only assistance here is from the MHC and they don’t have food." A civil society source in Mogadishu, who requested anonymity, told IRIN many returnees were finding "their homes no longer existed and were having to start from scratch".

Wave of returnees

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), some 60,000 people have returned to Mogadishu since the start of 2009. Most are returning from IDP settlements in the Lower and Middle Shabelle regions in south-central Somalia, and Hiraan, Galgaduud and Mudug regions in central Somalia, said a UNHCR briefing note on 14 April. The returnees were heading mainly to the districts of Yaaqshiid, Wardhiigleey, Heliwaa and Hawl Wadaag in Mogadishu. Roberta Russo, associate public information officer for UNHCR Somalia, recently told IRIN the humanitarian community was "seriously concerned about the spontaneous returns to Mogadishu as the security situation is still volatile and basic services to help the returnees are not in place”. Meanwhile, the violence continues: Dozens were injured or killed on 13 April after shelling in parts of south Mogadishu.

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