AFRICA/SOMALIA - People flee Las Anod: "We have nothing to eat, the only thing we get is water"

Thursday, 15 June 2023

Las Anod (Agenzia Fides) - The clashes between the security forces of separatist Somaliland, who have been occupying the city of Las Anod in the north of the country since 2007, and the militias of the local clans, who are demanding secession and direct administration by the Somali government in Mogadishu, have escalated since February last year.
Hundreds of thousands of people, who fled the fighting in the disputed Somali city (see Fides, 6/3/2023), are stranded in the countryside affected by drought.
According to local sources, as of February 2023, more than 200,000 people, mostly women, children and the elderly, had fled Las Anod to surrounding villages, seeking refuge in an area already hit by five consecutive droughts. Another 100,000 people crossed the border into neighboring Ethiopia, where aid organizations are reporting a desperate situation in which many children under the age of five and pregnant and nursing mothers are suffering from moderate acute malnutrition.
Most of those who fled the violence have settled in informal camps such as that in Kalabaydh, or have been taken in by local villages already suffering the effects of a severe drought that has decimated livestock, the basis of the local economy. "We have nothing to eat, the only thing we can get is water", reported the refugees who arrived in Kalabaydh, a town that had a population of about 7,000 before the bombing and is now home to about 30,000 refugees who also live in the surrounding areas. Schools have been closed to make camps of makeshift tents and tarpaulins for those who cannot find space in classrooms crowded with families.
"A piece of land outside the city has been made available for displaced people to set up a camp, but water is only available if it is transported by tanker trucks and food is even more difficult to find. Local residents have brought as much food as possible to displaced families, but it is not enough", reported those responsible on site.
"The drought has made the situation worse," said Merick Freedy Alagbe, who heads operations in northern Somalia for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). "Faced with this new wave of displaced people, it is difficult for host communities to support them. People's resources are already completely exhausted".
In view of the serious crisis in Las Anod, it is not easy for the federal government in Mogadishu, which is already struggling with drought, displaced people and the fight against the jihadist group al-Shabab, to provide further aid for the displaced people in the region. It began with a series of escalating conflicts between the occupying Somali forces, who claim the territory based on colonial-era borders, and militiamen from the local Dhulbahante clan. After clashes with clan fighters in the city, Somaliland troops withdrew to the outskirts of Las Anod to ease tensions. However, Dhulbahante elders saw the withdrawal as an opportunity to declare that Las Anod and the northern regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SCC) were no longer under Somaliland's self-proclaimed independent government. Instead, they called for union with Somalia, rejecting both Somaliland's and neighboring Puntland's previous claims to the territory. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 15/6/2023)