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The IRC Launches Programs to Help Displaced in Devastated Somalia
Since January 2007, fighting between the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and remnants of the rebel Union of Islamic Courts and militias aligned against the government, has displaced at least 400,000 people from the country’s capital Mogadishu.
Galkayo, Somalia, Oct 22, 2007 - The International Rescue Committee is opening its first field office in war-torn Somalia by the end of next month. According to Bruce Hickling, the IRC’s program advisor for Somalia, the office will be set up in the town of Galkayo in the country’s central Mudug region. Programs will initially focus on providing clean water, safe sanitation and hygiene promotion to the displaced and host communities in Galkayo as well as in the rural south of the Mudug Region, an area hosting tens of thousands of displaced that has not been accessed by humanitarian support for years.
“Aside from a few irregular food and non-food distributions, the IRC will be one of the first to provide assistance to this vulnerable group of people,” Hickling says.
Since January 2007, fighting between the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and remnants of the rebel Union of Islamic Courts and militias aligned against the government, has displaced at least 400,000 people from the country’s capital Mogadishu. Of these, more than 45,000 have fled to the Mudug region. Over 6,000 of them have taken refuge in the town of Galkayo.
“We saw displaced people living in squalid conditions in the town,” says Hickling, who recently returned to Nairobi from assessing the situation in the East African country. “People were squeezed into groups of 8-10 families living under tattered plastic sheeting or flimsy roofs, propped up to provide minimal coverage from the harsh elements. The displaced must pay rent for this squalor and for access to water. They are forced work under slave-like conditions to earn enough to barely survive.”
Galkayo already hosted more than 50,000 longer-term displaced people before the latest exodus from Mogadishu in January.
“There are not enough resources to go around and many local families are hosting relatives as well as strangers who have fled from the fighting,” Hickling says, adding that severe droughts have exacerbated an already dire situation.
“There hasn’t been enough rain so traditional water sources have dried up. In one small village we visited, where the population had nearly doubled with the influx of displaced people, we found women queuing beside a barely functioning water point. They had been waiting for more than six hours without being able to collect any water.”
“As resources grow scarcer, the potential for conflict increases,” Hickling adds. “There is a real risk of increased local conflict as tensions grow over access to resources.”
Operating from the Kenyan capital Nairobi, the IRC’s Somalia team is working closely with a consortium of non-governmental organizations operating in Somalia, as well as the United Nations and the Somali Support Secretariat, an independent body that helps coordinate all partners’ assistance to Somalia.
Somalia remains deeply divided along clan lines and has been without an effective central government since President Siyad Barre was overthrown in 1991. Years of fighting between rival warlords and an inability to deal with famine and disease have led to the deaths of up to one million people. In 2004, warlords and politicians signed an agreement to set up a new parliament, which later appointed a president. The TFG is the 14th attempt to establish a government since the fall of Barre.
The Union of Islamic Courts, a group of Sharia courts which united to rival the TFG, gained control of much of the south, including Mogadishu, in 2006. By the end of last year, forces loyal to the TFG seized control from the Islamists with the backing of Ethiopian troops. The country has seen a surge in violence ever since.
The IRC previously ran programs in Somalia until 1995. Until 1993, the IRC also ran programs in Somaliland, the north-west part of Somalia which unilaterally declared itself independent after the fall of Barre.
Source: International Rescue Committee