31 December 2013 |
Somalia: Internal displacement in brief
As of December 2013
Somalia has witnessed more than two decades of conflict, violence, human rights violations and disasters, all of which have triggered repeated waves of displacement. Since its establishment in 2012, the country’s federal government has worked to promote peace, good governance and improved relations with parts of the country seeking autonomy. The federal structure is, however, still weak and the potential for further instability remains. Despite being ousted from some of the areas it had controlled for years, the Islamic non-state armed group al-Shabaab remains a major threat to peace and security. Some parts of the country, such as Somaliland and Puntland are relatively stable, but many areas of south-central Somalia remain volatile, with ongoing displacement and only limited humanitarian access.
There were an estimated 1.1 million IDPs in Somalia in 2013. Around 893,000 were living in south-central Somalia, including an estimated 369,000 in settlements in and around Mogadishu; 129,000 in Puntland; and 84,000 in Somaliland, including those displaced in the Sool and Sanaag regions. More than 80,000 people were reported to be newly displaced, many of them a number of times.
Most IDPs are extremely susceptible to further shocks and stresses. Flooding in Middle Shabelle and tropical storms in Puntland increased the vulnerability of populations already displaced by conflict and violence. They also face risks to their lives, safety, security and dignity. IDPs are at disproportionate risk of gross human rights abuses, especially women and unaccompanied children. Sexual and gender-based violence is widespread, even in areas of Somalia that enjoy relative security. Other reported human rights violations include the use of child soldiers and forced recruitment into armed groups. Many IDPs from minority groups who lack clan protection suffer pervasive discrimination.
Rainfall has improved in recent seasons and humanitarians have managed to reach many IDPs in previously inaccessible areas, but food insecurity is still a major problem for the displaced population. Access to livelihood and employment opportunities also represents a significant challenge, and their meagre incomes often fail to cover their daily needs. Living conditions in most informal settlements are dire, with a severe lack of water, sanitation and waste disposal. IDPs’ health situation remains critical, with most outbreaks of contagious diseases occurring in areas hosting displaced people.
An improving economy and urban migration have increased pressure on urban land, which in turn led to IDPs being forcibly evicted and relocated in 2013. Around 17,200 people were reportedly evicted during the year. In January, the government initiated a plan to relocate IDPs living in settlements in Mogadishu to areas outside the city. Humanitarian organisations engaged with the government in planning the process to ensure it was conducted in a voluntary, consultative and rights-based way. The plan stalled, however, as a result of the deteriorating security situation, lack of land-ownership benchmarks, and pre-emptive action by so-called “gatekeepers” who started to move IDPs out of their settlements.
The vast majority of Somalia’s IDPs continued to live in protracted displacement during 2013, and prospects for durable solutions remain distant. By December, nearly 50,500 had been helped to go back to their home villages and an estimated 13,000 had returned spontaneously. Conditions, however, are not yet conducive to wide-scale returns, particularly in areas where security is still fragile and livelihood options limited. Those involved in humanitarian, development, human rights and peacebuilding work need to adopt a multi-disciplinary approach to facilitate durable solutions, which are critical for stabilisation and the consolidation of peace.
Somalia ratified the Kampala Convention internally in November, but it has not yet registered its ratification with the African Union. The government announced in March that it would develop a national policy on internal displacement, and a draft policy was under discussion in December. There have been similar initiatives in both Puntland and Somaliland. Welcome though these developments are, weak governance, limited resources and lack of access to some areas pose obstacles to the policies being finalised and implemented. It is essential that the authorities work with civil society and the international community to assist and protect IDPs and create conditions conducive to durable solutions