Rape, corruption in camps blight lives of Somali displaced

Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:16am EST
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By Abdi Sheikh

MOGADISHU (AlertNet) - Nurto Isak's food rations are feeding her, her three children, and -- she suspects -- the militiamen guarding the camp in Mogadishu where she and other uprooted Somalis have taken refuge.

The city is host to more than 180,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) who, like Isak, have fled a killer combination of conflict, drought and hunger back home.

Many risk long, difficult journeys to reach the capital, their sights set on the numerous aid agencies that have set up relief operations to hand out food and treat malnutrition there.

Yet many people at various IDP settlements in the war-torn city complain that food aid is not reaching them and accuse local aid workers working for international and Somali NGOs of taking it to line their own pockets.

"Half of the rations intended for our camp is given to the warlord whose militia are said to be guarding us," Isak told AlertNet (www.trust.org/alertnet), a humanitarian news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Many of the displaced said women were being raped in camps, while others lamented a lack of jobs, health clinics and schools despite the increased presence of aid groups.

Six months after famine was declared in parts of Somalia, the Horn of Africa country remains in the grip of a humanitarian crisis, with 4 million people in need of aid, according to U.N. figures.

However, fighting between government forces and Islamist rebels, combined with attacks on aid workers and a history of aid being manipulated for political gain, means Somalia is one of the toughest countries for relief agencies to operate in.   Continued...

<p>Kadija Mohamed (C) walks through a camp set up for internally displaced people in Dinsoor, January 5, 2012. REUTERS/Feisal Omar</p>