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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hawa Abdi In Starvation Since Hizbul Islam Invaded

Nairobi — Five months after Islamist militia took over a hospital and camp hosting thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Somalia's Afgoye corridor, living conditions have deteriorated, with malnutrition, food shortages and shelter emerging as the key concerns.

"I live in the Hawa Abdi area; in my camp alone, there are 550 families [3,300 people] with little or no food, no medical help and almost non-existent shelter," Hussein Abi, an elder, told IRIN by telephone on 29 September.

There are 6,000-8,000 IDP families (36,000 to 48,000 people) in and around the 26ha Hawa Abdi compound, established in 2007 by Hawa Abdi, a Somali doctor, who turned her small clinic into a hospital and IDP camp.

"Since Dr Abdi left [in July 2010], we have had no assistance and no one has come to see what our situation is," Abi said.

Abdi and other humanitarian workers had helped the IDPs for years until May when Hisbul Islam militia raided the compound and took over the hospital, which also hosted a Médecins sans Frontières-Switzerland clinic and nutrition centre.

Most of those arriving at the camp had fled fighting in the capital, Mogadishu, between government troops and insurgents.

Children at risk

"Both the hospital and the MSF clinic are now closed," Abukar Omar Adow, an IDP and human rights activist, told IRIN.

"We had a hospital and nutrition centre for malnourished children; now those children and their parents have been left to their own fate," he said.

He said Abdi left the compound fearing for her safety. No one has replaced her, Adow said. "The hospital is inactive. It is occupied by these people [insurgents]."

A local journalist, who visited the area, told IRIN that people in the Afgoye corridor were desperate.

"There are no aid agencies operating in the area and even local ones have difficulty accessing the displaced," he said.

New influx

"We have been getting a stream of displaced people since the current fighting in Mogadishu between the government and insurgents escalated in August," said Adow.

"In 2007 [when the bulk of the displaced arrived] there were services and agencies to help. Now there are none and new arrivals are much worse off than the earlier IDPs," he said.

"I am seeing more and more desperate parents with malnourished children and nowhere to take them."

Adow said in the past, many IDPs went to Mogadishu to find work to supplement aid handouts but "now there is nothing. No handouts and no work."

Relying on the diaspora

shares a small shack with her six children and a relative. "It is made of twigs, torn clothes and some plastic sheeting," she told IRIN.

Food is a hit-and-miss thing, according to Mohamed. "Some days I get lucky and get enough to feed them for two meals and some days we don't have even one meal."

Adow said the displaced were at the mercy of those with guns. "You cannot blame the agencies for leaving. How can they feel safe when we don't?"

"The only ones who get regular supplies are those whose relatives in the diaspora send money," the journalist said. "Someone must pressure the insurgents to allow access to the displaced before it is too late for many of them."

The Rest @ All Africa

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