In south and central Somalia, there is nowhere to escape from the worsening conflict between the rebels and the pro-government forces, which has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women and children. People hoping for a new life during the new year were killed, maimed, and injured; aid agencies and offices were robbed; houses and hospitals were destroyed by mortar shells.
Beledweyne, a strategic town in central Somalia, turned one morning into a war zone. It was on January 21, 2010; the crowded streets became empty, and thousands of the residents, including the internally displaced persons (IDPS) from Mogadishu vacated their home.
A number of people simply live under trees, with no shelter from the scorching sun and the heavy downpour. The situation can only be described as the nastiest ever in the history of the town.
“It’s like going from the frying pan into the fire for the displaced people from Mogadishu. A number of them died, and others were injured after the warring groups fought inside the town,” said Ilyas, a journalist based in Beledweyne.
“Most of those injured in the clashes were women and children,” he added.
Ilyas said the people are now living under the trees with no clean water, sufficient food, shelter, sanitation, and medical facilities.
Deadliest Month Since August 2009
Early 2010 in central Somalia, the New Year was marked with deadly clashes between pro-government Islamists and Al-Shabaab rebel group. January was the deadliest month since August 2009. Approximately, 258 people died, and 253 others were injured. Thousands of families were displaced, according to a report released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Andrej Mahecic UN refugees’ spokesman said, Violence in Somalia sharply escalated in January 2010, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths, and widespread destruction.
Andrej adds the fighting displaced over 80,000 Somalis during that month, including 18,000 who fled their homes in the capital Mogadishu.
From Bullets to Bullets
“I fled from my second home in Beledweyne. I don’t know where to go; I am in misery,” Shukriya Yahye a 29-year-old, mother of five, told IslamOnline.net.
Shukriya said she fled from the restive capital Mogadishu, and now lives under a tree at the outskirt of Beledweyne town with her five children. Shukriya lost some of her relatives in the restive capital:
“I would like to go back to my home to get my sister and relatives, but I can’t go back; I don’t have any clue as to how to find them.
“Schools were closed; there was no business and lack of food. I lived under constant fear, wondering when mortars would hit my home, but Allah saved me,” Asli Hashi , another displaced person from Beledweyne told IOL.
“I witnessed six of my neighbors dying; I was unable to help them because the militias who were fighting in the town were roaming outside my house.”
She added that the militias had no regard for the civilians.
“Imagine your neighbors are dying, and you can’t assist them in any way. What kind of life is this?” Hashi asked in desperation.
You would always hear the bullets, and then everyone would try to escape. When you return to your house, you will find everything diminished.
No Hope for Education in Central Somalia
Somalis want their children to go to school like most parents, get educated, and have a bright future to help themselves and their country, but this dream was cut short when the central government collapsed in 1991. Central Somalia was calm compared with the chaotic capital, allowing conducive learning environment for the youngsters
“We thought our children would have an education, but that was wiped out by the events of 21st January,” Mohamed an elder in Beledweyne told IOL.
Amina Adow, a mother of seven and one of the IDP’s in Hiran region, said she wanted her children to go back to school, but her dream was shuttered after the deadly fighting broke out in the town.
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“My children haven’t gone to school since early this year. We fled to a village near Beledweyne town,” she said.
Omar Abdi Jelani, a displaced person from Mogadishu hoped that he would join the secondary level and continue with his study.
“I was very happy to join form one this year; I had hope to finish my secondary school in central Somalia, but now I don’t know what to do! I am one of the IDPs on the outskirts of Beledweyne town,” he said, adding that his hopes were shattered.
No Food and Water
“My kids haven’t had clean water for the last three weeks. We left our homes in central Somalia after heavy fighting erupted,” Duale Farah in Dusamareb camp told IOL by phone.
“After we fled, we ate once a day, but Allah helped us survive from the difficulty. We pray to get peace, we hope Allah will accept our prayers,” she concluded.
Fighting has forced many families to seek refuge with relatives, but some families have become overstretched, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
“Unfortunately, most families can no longer sustain the burden of hosting additional family members,” said Andrea Heath, the ICRC’s assistance coordinator for Somalia.
This has left many displaced families living in deplorable conditions — sleeping in makeshift huts, and lacking even the most basic items needed for daily survival, as most lost all their belongings and are without money or work.
“All warring parties in central Somalia don’t obey the rules of the international humanitarian law,” an aid agency worker who requested not to be named told IOL.
Hussein left his home and some of his children in Wadajir district in Mogadishu; he fled to Galgadud region in central Somalia.
“I had a small shop in Mogadishu, but it was reduced to ashes by mortars. I left for Beledweyne town, where some of my relatives live,” Hussein told IOL.
Few days later, he says, his house came under shelling, forcing him, his wife, and children to flee again.
“Now I am at a village about 90 km to the west of Beledweyne; we don’t have enough meal and water. We live in makeshift house,” he added.
“The life here is very difficult; the sun is very hot, no clean water and food.”
No one can help them…
The desperation situation is compounded by the withdrawal of almost all aid agencies from the region due to the nature of the hostility from the warring sides.
“To work in central Somalia as an aid agency worker is very hard; you can risk your life. You must be ready every minute to die because the militias don’t like aid workers,” an aid worker told IOL.
Somalia is one of the world’s most dangerous places and it’s very hard to work for the affected war civilians
“So far, the deteriorating security conditions have made it hard, if not impossible, for humanitarian workers to access the needy population,” said Mahecic, the UN refugees’ spokesman.
According to the UN, Somalia is currently experiencing its worst humanitarian crisis in 18 years of almost uninterrupted civil strife and one of the world’s worst ongoing humanitarian tragedies.
More than 1.4 million people are displaced in Somalia, while another 560,000 Somalis have sought refuge in neighboring countries, according to the UNHCR.
By ‘Abdul Kareem Muhammed Jimale
Correspondent, Freelance Writer – Somalia
Source : Islamonline