(ERGO) – In the first part in a new weekly series investigating conditions in IDP camps across the country, a Radio Ergo reporter visited Barwaqo camp in Guriel. Despite existing for eight years, Barwaqolacks all basic amenities and does not have even a single toilet, nor a borehole.The people living there say they are unable to return to their original homes as they have no source of livelihood.
Barwaqo camp for the internally displaced was first set up in Guriel townin 2011, by groups of people fleeing drought in Galgadud and other neighbouring regions of central Somalia.
Today there are around 200 families livingthere,enduring squalid conditions without water, toilets, or teachers to enable their children to get basic education.
Hawo Guled arrived in the camp in 2012. At the moment she manages to support her family from a meagre income selling milk in the town.
“I get milk from the pastoralists who bring it here and they hired me to sell the milk for them. For every litre of milk that sells at one dollar, I get one cent which is really not enough but it is better than nothing!” Hawa told Radio Ergo.
Sanitation in the camp is a major concern for the residents.
Hawasays the camp has no latrines. Adults try to make use of toilets in hosting community areas near the camp, but children simply defecate anywhere on ground within the camp posing health hazards. The hosting community is not always ready to share its facilities.
“We visit our neighbours around the camp to relieve ourselves.Sometimes people do not allow use of their toilets,”Hawo complained.
Hakimo Abdullahi Mohamed, a mother of seven, was one of the first occupants of the camp. She and her family arrived in 2011 after their village of Golangole was hit by severe drought, killing their entire herd of 75 goats.
Despite the fact that her husband suffers from a gunshot injury sustained in clan clashes 10 years ago, they made the 80 km journey north to Guriel town and tried to build a life in Barwaqo.
The hardest aspect of life, according to Hakimo, is piecing together enough resources to keep the children fed.
“We used to be given 25 kg of sugar and a similar amount of rice and flour in addition to two cartons of pasta and 10 litres of cooking oil every three months but we haven’t received any in the last three months,” Hakimo told Radio Ergo.
Camp residents say local NGO Towfiq distributed World Food Programme cash cards to families in 2016 for food distributions but the distributions stopped three months ago.
Hakimo was relying on a portion of the small earnings made by her 18-year-old son selling firewood, but since he fell ill in January he has not been able to work and they are all struggling.
“Whenever he sold firewood, he used to give us between 10,000 and 15,000 shillings (four to six cents) depending on what he earned. We were better off before than we are today. At least we were able to get something to eat but now it seems thing are getting out of hand,” she said.
Every family has to try to budget to buy water, as there are no boreholes in Barwaqo camp.
The camp chairwoman, AsliSiyad, who is also one of the displaced, says people try to minimize their water usage to as little as possible. The displaced people have to buy water at one cent per 20 litres from their neighbours within the town.
A particular concern facing women and girls in the camp is the lack of security and their vulnerability to sexually-based violence. Hawo told Radio Ergo that they face frequent attacks by armed gangs at night.
“Just the other night, three armed men raided the camp and they tried to rape a woman who lives nearby. People in the camp came to her rescue after they heard her screaming. The conditions here are very dangerous. We live in fear,” she stated.
For Hakimo, the risks are such that she sent her daughter out of the camp to live in a safer environment with relatives.
“We live in this flimsy kind of house that is about to collapse,” she said. “I am not secure inside it because it does not even have a door! That is why my only daughter is living with a relative on the outskirts of Guriel town.”
Barwaqo boasts one small school building with two classrooms, but there are no professional teachers living within the camp community. AsAsliSiyad explained the camp’s 95 children only have an opportunity to learn on Thursdays andFridaysthanks to volunteers from the town.
“The children used to study outside under a tree until a well-wisher volunteered to build the two classrooms, but there are no teachers. Some high school students from the town come to teach the children at weekends, ” Asli said.
Most of the people Radio Ergo talked to in Barwaqo camp were not willing to return to their original homes because they had nothing there to go back to, as their livelihoods were destroyed.
They said they would rather stay in the hope that some aid operations would resume in the camp.
Despite the poor conditions in the camp, moving to a better place in town is not an option as they do not have money to rent a house.