(ERGO) – Eleeye Muse Ige and four of his children are among the 600 families huddled in the compound of a local primary school,after fleeing conflict in their village on the border between Somali and Afar regions of Ethiopia.
A land dispute flared into conflict between the communities in Garba-isse village in western Siti zone at the end of July, splitting up Eleeye’s family in the mayhem and separating him from his wife and their four other children.
“She left with the youngest four children and got lost along the way as we fled. I couldn’t find a car to pick them up for me so that if we are to die, we die together in one place,” Eleeye told Radio Ergo.
Sleeping rough on the outside veranda of the overcrowded school in Ma’ayso district, he said conditions are dire.
“Men and women are sleeping in one place in the open field. We don’t have a place to shelter from the rains and we are sleeping in the mud. I feed my children cooked food that I get from the locals. We don’t even have a plate to eat the food. I feed them on plastic bags as a plate,” he said.
Eleeye worked as a broker in Garba-isse livestock market, earningaroundfive dollars a day.His wife and other children are now in Afcadde, between Ma’ayso and Garba-isse, being supported by a local Somali familywith one or two meals a day.They cannot reunite as the road has been cut by the conflict.
Among the lucky displaced families with a space in one of the school’s nine classrooms is Sa’ado Bare Roble and her family of seven. She manages to get two meals a day from a relative in Ma’ayso.
“We are now with our people, and we aren’t hearingthe sound of gunfire anymore. But people here don’t have utensils. I fear there might be a diarrhoea outbreak that kills the rest of us who escaped the conflict,” she said.
“We are sleeping 50 people in one classroom. Some of them are sleeping outside the classrooms in the open. We depend on help from the locals.”
Sa’ado, a well-known businesswoman in Garba-isse, owned a shop selling clothes, foodstuff and utensils that was valued at $23,000. Her business was looted in the conflict as she watched helplessly. Her family also left behind their six-roomed house.
The deputy minister of disaster management,Abdifatah Mohamed Abdi, visited the school on 5 August. He saidthey are working to find an alternative site for the families before the school reopens on 15 September, so as not to disrupt education. The first supplies of food, blankets and tents from the government would reach the displaced families soon.
“These are people whose relatives were killed in the conflict and their homes and property have been burnt down. We have a duty to provide them food, health, water and basic services. (…) Afterwards we will find a permanent solution. The displaced families are still coming and so we will come up with a solution once they all arrive,” he said.
Abdifatah said he had seen the long queues outside the school’s four toilets, with some of the families forced to go into the bushes instead. He said the Ma’ayso authorities had begun building extra toilets for the IDPs, as there are health concerns during the rainy season.