(ERGO) – Luul Mohamed Isaq, 42, a mother of seven, has been living in Kulmiye camp in Luq, in the southern Somali region of Gedo, under appalling conditions since she fled from neighbouring Ethiopia last June.
Luul and her children have been sleeping rough, sheltering under a flimsy shack made of pieces of cloth and a few bits of old cartons. They have no regular supply of food or water aid and survive on scanty food handouts they get from their relatives living in the area.
The single mother wanted to shield her children from the ethnic conflict that erupted between Oromo and Somali communities in southern Ethiopia, and with family ties in Gedo she thought she could make a life in Somalia.
However, over the past there months she has had to send her children away, one by one, because she cannot feed them.
“I have taken six of my children to stay with my relatives. I didn’t have anything to give them. I thought instead of them dying here, I should do that,” Luul told Radio Ergo.
Luul separated from her husband two years ago. He also migrated away from their home in Negele in Oromia region of Ethiopia, with another wife and five children. Luul said she used all the money she had to board a truck to cross the border to Luq with her children.
Hundreds of Somali Ethiopians have found themselves falling into desperate conditions since they fled to Somalia.
Suuban Abey, 24, lives in Gaaluun camp with her three children including her infant baby born in the camp. There are around 300 Somali Ethiopian this camp. Suuban wakes up early every morning to fetch water from the river in plastic jerricans, earning 8,000 Somali shillings (less than half a dollar) as her only means of income to support her family.
“I can fetch around four jerrycans every day, and I sell them to families in the city. I am able secure enough income for one meal,” said Suuban.
Suuban’s husband has a paralyzed leg and is out of work. She would like to move to Luq town to find a better life, although without skills or money she is not sure how she can make it.
Some families have been forced to move away from Gaaluun camp after failing to receive any aid for months. It is unclear where they have ended up.
Maryan Mohamud, a mother of two, told Radio Ergo that they face a myriad challenges in the camp, including lack of clean drinking water and food. She said they trek to the river to fetch water, which is often contaminated and unsafe to drink.
Maryan’s husband is unemployed and can only go to the town every now and then to get some food handouts from his relatives.
Most of these refugee families were former pastoralists, who lost their livelihoods following the ethnic conflict that broke out in their area.
The deputy-head of social affairs in Luq, Abdimajid Hassan Ali, said 800 refugee families have camped in the area. He said they have not had any aid for four months and the local administration does not have the capacity to give them anything.
“We have registered these people as refugees, since they have come from a different country. They face a difficult situation, some of them go to the town so that they can try to earn some income,” said Abdimajid.
The administration has given the refugees land to settle on but there are no basic facilities even toilets or water.