Africa

Somalis escaping the drought flee to the capital

  • 10 July 2011
  • From the section Africa
Somali drought refugees camp among the ruins of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu
Image caption Thousands now camp amid the ruins of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu

Somalis are fleeing the region's worsening drought by going to the capital, Mogadishu, even though it is severely damaged by years of fighting.

The government says around 1,500 people arrive in the city every day, but they have little aid to offer them.

Ordinary people are providing what help they can, for families sheltered in the ruins of former government buildings.

Somalia is at the centre of a drought affecting around 10 million people in four countries in the Horn of Africa.

There are daily deaths in Mogadishu, with eight people dying overnight in just one area.

The rains have begun and with temperature dropping, children and the elderly are becoming ill.

Islamist militants of al-Shabab, who control much of the country except for the capital, have established a camp outside Mogadishu for drought victims. But they are discouraging people from crossing into government held areas, or leaving for camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

There, international organisations have set up tents, food stores and clinics.

Image caption Families have crossed into government-held areas but are discouraged by Islamists of al-Shabab

It is not clear why al-Shabab are doing this, but local leaders of civic organisations coping with the drought say the militants are using radio broadcasts to restrict people's movements.

Abdullahi Shirwa told the BBC: "They [al-Shabab] are saying over the radio that you cannot go to either Kenya nor to Mogadishu.

The head of the United Nations refugee agency, Antonio Guterres, says he wants aid agencies to go into Somalia to help drought victims, if obstacles of security can be overcome.

Delivering aid to many areas would involve deals with al-Shabab, which is listed by the US as "terrorist".

"There are very severe obstacles and links to security that need to be removed, but I think it is essential to move in that direction," Mr Guterres said.

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