(ERGO) – A number of local families in the town of Burao in Somaliland are benefiting from food aid intended for displaced pastoralist families, despite the fact that they are not living in the camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and have other sources of income.
Some have set up so-called ‘buul-hunguri’ (meaning, makeshift huts to attract aid) in IDP camps in Burao in order to receive monthly food from vouchers intended for IDPs.
Anab Ibraahim, a fruit seller in Burao market, said that for the past three years she had been receiving food using a voucher issued by the international NGO, World Vision, which she obtained when the vouchers were first issued to families staying near Burao airport. This was the location where many drought-affected families fleeing drought in other areas had temporarily settled, mingling in with the local townspeople there.
“I am among those who received the vouchers issued by the agency,” Anab stated, adding: “Whether they are pastoralists or people living in town, there are those who need food aid. For us, we didn’t own anything, so this was a God-given opportunity. There are many other people who have the ability to provide for their families and who take the donations from the NGOs.”
Anab, a single mother with seven children, complements the income she makes from her fruit business with 25 kgs of flour, rice and sugar, seven litres of cooking oil and dates that she gets using her voucher.
In January 2020, the IDPs squatting around the airport were moved to two new camps on land allocated by the local authorities. Anab put up a makeshift hut inside Kur-libah camp to be sure of continuing to access the food aid, although she does not live there with her family.
Whilst Anab and other local residents like her do not feel that they are doing anything wrong in accessing the food aid in this manner, there are other destitute displaced pastoralist families living in the IDP camps who are not receiving any aid at all.
Sahra Ahmed Elmi, a widow, is among those who lost all their livestock in the harsh 2017 drought. She had been living in Balialanle camp, around 85 km west of Burao, and later moved to Burao.
She was among the IDPs given the title deed to a small plot of land measuring 12×12 metres in Kur-libah camp in Burao, where she put up her makeshift hut, using whatever materials she could find. This is where she now lives.
Sahra feels angry that she did not get a chance to receive a voucher during the initial distribution.
“We did not get vouchers…they were taken by force!” she exclaimed. “People scrambled for the vouchers and the strong managed to get them. People living in the town, who have economic capacity, collected them by force,” she told Radio Ergo.
She and her seven children and two grandchildren depend on food donated by more fortunate neighbours living in the IDP camp.
“The neighbours with vouchers share their donations. Someone gives me a kilo, another gives me half a kilo and that is how we live. When the government donated this plot, we did not get any other support. We just ask our fellow Somali people for help. You can see here the state of my shabby shoes…we have no clothes, nothing, and most people are the same. We have nothing for sure and we survive by luck,” she said.
Awil Ali Mohamed, the camp leader of Kur-libah camp, eight km from Burao town, said only 800 out of the 2,000 IDPs living there were receiving food aid. However, he understood the difficulties involved in distinguishing IDPs from locals and does not blame World Vision.
“People were living around Burao airport and many others settled there. The NGO doesn’t know, they gave the vouchers to those who arrived, whether they are from Burao town or another place. They thought they were the people who had been displaced, that is how many people got the vouchers,” Awil said.
Abdiqani Hussein Kahin, from World Vision, told Radio Ergo that the NGO issued vouchers based on the list provided by the district and regional administrations and the Somaliland Refugees and IDPs Committee. It was the authorities’ responsibility to gather the names of people who had lost their animals in the drought. He said World Vision was not aware if some of these people were small business owners in the town.
“At the time, there were many people who did not come to the camps and who were staying with families in the town. So what happened when the selection was done was that the (Somaliland Refugees and) IDPs Committee and the district and regional administrations gave a portion of the allocation to IDPs living with the host communities in the town. We received a list and we were told these are the people in the camp and these are the displaced living in the town,” Abdiqani explained.
Burao municipal secretary, Osman Mohamed Sheikh Osman Nur, confirmed to Radio Ergo that town residents were among those who obtained food vouchers in 2017, but said he did not know the exact number of such people.
“The displaced people from drought-hit areas were mixed up with people from the town, whether they are poor or otherwise. It was difficult to identify who is who, but this issue is there. The targeted people were those who arrived in 2017 after losing their livestock and they came in three waves,” the municipal secretary said.
The authorities say they will review the situation although it has not been specified if that would mean a re-registration or verification exercise to identify those qualifying for aid.
There are around 1,200 families currently living in Kur-libah and Maloosh and 18 May IDP camps, many of whom do not have food vouchers or any other form of assistance or income.