7 May 2013
Last updated at 06:31 ET
After more than two decades of civil war, Somalia’s capital is enjoying a sense of relative calm. But Mogadishu is still struggling to recover from the fighting. Compounding the challenge are the tens of thousands of people who have fled south-central Somalia to live in squalid camps in the city. They face insecurity, a lack of clean water and sanitation and inadequate food. How to humanely help them is one of the topics at the conference on Somalia being held in London.
Humanitarian organisations estimate that as many as 370,000 displaced people are in Mogadishu although precise data is not available because displaced people are not officially registered. Tens of thousands have arrived since 2011 when a drought and famine afflicted parts of southern Somalia.
Mogadishu is a cityscape of ruined and bombed out buildings. Displaced people have occupied abandoned government offices, schools, and other public buildings, turning them into makeshift shelters.
Mohammed Musa, who suffers from tuberculosis, has lived in an abandoned government ministry building in Mogadishu for two years. “We have almost no food and medicine,” he said.
At many of the camps where displaced people have taken refuge, such as the Arif displacement camp shown here, private camp managers known as “gatekeepers”, have preyed on vulnerable residents. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, state security forces and armed groups have raped, beaten, and otherwise abused displaced Somalis in Mogadishu.
This elderly woman and her extended family live in a tent in a Mogadishu camp. Unable to get enough food in the camp to feed herself, she is forced to beg or work odd jobs to make ends meet. “People sometimes pay me to wash clothes or clean a toilet,” she said.
These young boys are reciting from the Koran at a makeshift madrasa, or Islamic school, at a camp in the south of the city. Many displaced families are unable to afford the school fees for formal schools and instead rely on local mosques for their children’s education. Many children do not go school at all and instead spend their day taking care of younger siblings at home or working to help their families.
Mogadishu’s displaced people live in crowded and unhealthy conditions where disease can spread easily. Children are especially vulnerable to preventable diseases such as measles and diarrhoea.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has rehabilitated and rebuilt four health centres that serve camps for displaced people and the neighbourhoods where they live. Every day hundreds of people seek treatment at the centres for illnesses including malaria, diarrhoea and infections caused by parasites.
“Malnutrition is widespread and we are seeing more and more if it,” said Ibrahim Mahmoud, an IRC clinic officer, seen here examining a malnourished child who is being given nutrients and fluids through an intravenous drip.
The government has announced plans to relocate tens of thousands of displaced people to camps on the outskirts of Mogadishu later this year. It is unclear if they will ever be able to return to their villages. Most of them have lost all their livestock and property and have little to return to. “I stand a better chance here in the city,” said one man who lives in a camp near the Mogadishu airport. “Here, I can at least try to find some work and donations.” (Photos and text from IRC's Peter Biro)