Hassan Mohamed, a father of six, sits outside a makeshift shelter that he calls home, cuddling his youngest child. The shelter is made of sticks and pieces of cloth.
“We were uprooted from our previous settlement, and you can see the condition we are living in,” he told VOA.
Mohamed lives in a camp for internally displaced persons, or what the U.N. calls IDPs.
There are more than 2 million IDPs spread across Somalia, most of whom depend on humanitarian assistance, according to U.N.
Mogadishu is home to more than half a million IDPs living in crowded camps with poor sanitation, where COVID-19 can spread rapidly.
“We survive on a handful of rice received from a distribution point in the camp’s kitchen,” Mohamed said. “That is the only food we get to break our fast and it is not enough. Our situation is dire, and we need more aid.”
Like Mohamed and his family, people in this camp were forced to leave their homes in Lego village, Lower Shabelle region, due to clan-related conflict. Their homes were razed, livestock stolen by militia from rival clans and they have sought shelter in the camp located in the outskirts of Mogadishu.
In addition to the conflict, recurrent drought, floods and locust invasions have contributed to an increase in the number of IDPs.
Need remains high
In the holy month of Ramadan, vulnerable families like Mohamed’s rely heavily on food aid to survive amid a surge in COVID-19 infections. Families rush to the food kitchen to receive their daily rice portion.
Mohamed’s wife has joined other women waiting to receive their share of hygiene products, including face masks, from volunteers who visit the camp. The products are donations from Life Makers, a youth-led initiative that comes together each year during Ramadan to help families in need.
Mustafa Mukhtar is the chairperson of Life Makers. He says the volunteer-driven organization is not affiliated with religious or political groups. The goal is to encourage young people so they can contribute to development within the community. They come to the camp every day to oversee the distribution of food to vulnerable families.
“We came across these newly displaced people in this neighborhood, who are unable to feed their families because they have no source of income,” Mukhtar said. “We have set up this kitchen that feeds over 800 people each day. We help these families to break-fast with the food that we cook here.”
The need for humanitarian assistance remains high, particularly during Ramadan.
Ahmedweli Abukar Ahmed is the director general in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management. He said the federal government of Somalia is facing challenges to meet the needs of the displaced people living in different camps across Mogadishu.
“It is a coincidence that at a time when we are grappling with the effects caused by the second wave of coronavirus infections, and it is also the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan,” he told VOA. “This is the time when needy people really need assistance. Our ministry is engaging to the best of our ability to smoothly help these people break their fast during this holy month of Ramadan.”
Like many in the camp, Mohamed and his family will make it through Ramadan on a meager daily ration of donated cooked rice. Nonetheless, he said, they remain hopeful that other well-wishers will come to their aid.