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Nairobi , November 30, 2005 (UNOCHA) – The outbreak of fire that swept through a settlement for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Mogadishu on 21 November continues to highlight the immense suffering and vulnerability of this group of the population in the war ravaged country.

‘As unfortunate as it is, the fires signify and are a consequence of a deep rooted problem’ said the Acting UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia , Mr. Elballa Hagona. ‘The real issue is overcrowding on marginal land, the lack of economic opportunity and continuing human rights abuses. They (the internally displaced people) are often seen as outsiders - and are often not given the protection of host clans.’

In the hours following the fire that swept through the Danille area of Mogadishu on 21 November, and following a rapid assessment led by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN children’s agency (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and other agencies distributed food and household items to families who had lost their homes. Working with UN local non-governmental partners and community representatives distributed food, blankets, cooking sets, plastic sheeting, soap and mosquito nets.

Somalia is home to an estimated 400,000 internally displaced persons, most of whom live in the south/central zone. The IDPs fled their homes elsewhere in the country during the 15-year civil war, and live alongside other extremely vulnerable Somalis, including those who over the years have returned from exile abroad, but also cannot go back to their original homes.  

Most IDPs pay rent for a small piece of land barely large enough to build their rudimentary shelters made of scavenged materials such as plastic sheets, metal scrap, plastic cartons and branches. Latrines are virtually non-existent (as most landlords do not allow them) and access to clean water remains a major challenge.

As a result of overcrowding and the flimsy nature of shelter, the risk of fires has intensified in IDP settlements over the years. Earlier this year 2,000 people were left homeless when fire gutted the Buul Eelaay camp close to Bossaso in the Puntland region of Somalia .

Being a resilient society, ‘Somalis are now taking strides in trying to redress this situation’ said Mr. Elballa Hagona. ‘We are witnessing enhanced partnership with the international community in addressing both the immediate and underlying issues of IDP vulnerability including improved service delivery and planning for longer term resettlement and reintegration. Concrete actions in Hargeisa and Bossaso demonstrate that a lot can be done to give hope to these people who are after all, Somalis themselves.’

In the course of 2005, UN agencies, Non Government Organizations and Community Based Organizations have strengthened partnerships with Somali authorities in Hargeisa and Garowe, and are collaborating to implement a strategy for improved services and resettlement options for displaced persons. Much less has been undertaken in southern Somalia , largely due to the continuing constraints of insecurity and limited access. However, there is increased optimism that the presence of the Transitional Federal Government will make it possible for humanitarian agencies to deliver services to displaced people, and for IDPs to resettle in decent homes in communities with proper services.

For further information contact:

Amanda Di Lorenzo,

Information Officer

UNOCHA Somalia

Tel: (+254) 020 3754150-5

Email: dilorenzoa@un.org

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