Somalia war-refugee crisis surpasses Darfur in its horror

They arrive in trucks and cars, by donkey and on foot. Some children have even been carried in wheelbarrows. There is little in the way of food, just a handful of latrines and hardly any shelter – but still they come.

In three short weeks this 10-mile stretch of road – a pot-holed, cactus-lined, dirt track that leads west out of Mogadishu – has become home to the world's largest concentration of displaced people. Almost 200,000 people who have fled the violence in Mogadishu now live in 70 makeshift camps that have sprung up along the side of the road, many of them little more than shelters fashioned from twigs, rusting corrugated iron and plastic.

There are one million displaced people in the country, according to the UNHCR; 60 per cent of Mogadishu's population, 600,000 people, are believed to have fled.

United Nations officials now consider Somalia to be the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa, surpassing even Darfur in its horror and hopelessness. The rate of severely malnourished children is higher, the daily fighting is fiercer, and the amount of interest from the rest of the world is incomparably lower. Eric Laroche, the UN's aid co-ordinator for Somalia, said: "Since it is in Somalia no one cares. Many of these kids are going to die."

A country of 10 million, perched on Africa's easternmost tip, Somalia has in the past 12 months been battered by drought, floods, even a plague of locusts. But its role in the United States' "war on terror" has caused it the most pain.

Ethiopia invaded its neighbour on Christmas Day last year, aiming to drive out the Union of Islamic Courts, a coalition of Islamist groups which had taken control of large swaths of the south and centre.

The Courts' fighters were easily defeated by one of Africa's strongest armies. But within weeks, its hardline military wing, known as Al Shabaab, had re-emerged, launching a deadly Iraq-style insurgency. But the Ethiopians and Somali government troops have also attacked residential districts where they believe the insurgents are – 200,000 people have left in just three weeks.

The civil war has lasted 17 years. But this time, say those in Afgoye's wretched camps, is different.

Halima Ibrahim watched her husband die four days ago after their home was hit by a shell. In the chaos she gathered four of her eight children. "I could not find the others... They are killing old women, they are killing children," she spat. "Those Ethiopians deserve to die." Hatred towards the Ethiopians is matched only by a longing for the return of the Islamic Courts, who ruled Mogadishu from June to December. "We had peace then," said Ifrah Umaar, 30. "For six months we were happy."

Rampant insecurity has made Somalia a difficult place to deliver aid. Militias charge up to $400 per truck at roadblocks and the government has even accused aid workers of "feeding terrorists" by providing support to those who have fled.

"Someone who is severely malnourished is not a terrorist," replied Mr Laroche.

Those lining the road to Afgoye can only sit and wait.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Systems and Network Support Analyst

£26000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a rapidly expandi...

Recruitment Genius: IT Systems Support Analyst

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a rapidly expandi...

Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker / Trainee Broker / Closer - OTE £250,000

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker/ Trainee FX, Stoc...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests