NAIROBI, 15 April 2011 (IRIN) - A severe drought in and around Somalia's southern town of Dobley is taking its toll on thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs), some of whom have been displaced several times by fighting.
As a result, lack of water, food and shelter has worsened the condition of an already weak population, according to local sources.
The displaced include hundreds of families who fled the capital, Mogadishu, and had to flee again when Dobley recently became a battle-ground between the Islamist opposition Al-Shabab and a pro-government militia, the Raskambone Group.
Dobley, close to the Kenyan border, is also a transit area for Somalis seeking to enter Kenya as refugees.
The town fell to the Raskambone Group on 3 April after two weeks of heavy fighting.
"Most of the people fled to nearby villages of Diif, Dagila, Tabta and Hawina," Abdinasir Seraar, the Raskambone Group spokesman, said.
He added: "The villagers were already suffering from a serious drought and could not help anyone. Both the displaced and villagers are in dire need of help."
Seraar estimated that 3,500 families (21,000 people) had fled Dobley, adding that another 10,000-15,000 people were already living in the villages to which the IDPs were fleeing.
Mohmamed Muhumud Hassan, a traditional elder, told IRIN on 14 April that many of those displaced from Dobley did not even have utensils. "These are people who fled for their lives, taking with them very little. They are now stranded in villages ravaged by drought," Hassan said.
Food, water and shelter were a priority for both the displaced and the locals, he added.
"Almost all the cattle, sheep and goats have been lost due to the drought," he said. "They [the villagers] cannot help anyone; they need help."
He said many of the families had fled Dobley in late March, just before Al-Shabab was routed, including "hundreds of families from Mogadishu and Kismayo who were already in the town".
On the move
A local journalist, who requested anonymity, said many of the people had been displaced two or three times.
"Unfortunately, some have been on the move since last year and their living conditions are deplorable," the journalist said.
He said the worst-affected were children and the elderly and that if no aid reached them very soon, "many will die".
Raskambone's Seraar said the group welcomed any aid agency willing to help the population.
He said the group would guarantee security in Dobley and in surrounding villages. "We have them [Al-Shabab] out of the area; the closest they are is over 100km away. We promise a secure area, so security should not be an issue.
"The situation we found here is very serious and could get worse if help does not arrive soon."
Conflict and drought have led to the worst humanitarian crisis Somalia has faced in nearly two decades.
According to UN estimates, at least 2.4 million Somalis need help across the country, with another 1.4 million being displaced outside the country.