NAIROBI, 17 May 2007 (IRIN) - Local authorities in Somalia's southwestern town of Bardhere, Gedo region, have appealed to international aid agencies to help up to 12,000 displaced people who have sought refuge in the town.
"They [the displaced] continue to arrive every day and we cannot cope," Muhammad Sheikh Hassan, the Bardhere District Commissioner, told IRIN on 17 May.
He said the displaced urgently needed shelter, food and medicine. He said every lorry arriving in Bardhere was bringing more people who have fled fighting in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, between government troops and insurgents.
"We have done what we can for the displaced but it is not enough," Hassan said. "Our estimate is that since 20 February, 2,000 families [12,000 people] have arrived in Bardhere."
He appealed for help, saying no aid agency was assisting the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region.
"We don't have a single international agency operating here," he added. "There is no help from any quarter."
He said aid agencies only visited the area occasionally to conduct "surveys and assessments. But nobody can live or shelter on surveys and assessments."
Hassan said any agency that wanted to begin operations was welcome. "Bardhere is very safe and we will guarantee the safety and security of aid agencies and their workers."
A source from a non-governmental organisation told IRIN that the security situation and the local community in Bardhere "made it difficult for international agencies to have an international presence".
However, some agencies were active, using local staff or through local agencies, "but there is not much going on in terms of projects or programmes".
Households in the small town, Hassan said, were hosting about 500 displaced families, while others had set up makeshift camps "all over the place".
Habibo Ali Nur, an official of Himilo Relief and Development Association, a local NGO, said the internally displaced were facing the threat of disease at their makeshift camps. She said the Gu (long) rains had already started and the IDPs "would be the worst affected since they don't have anything".
She said the local community was helping but "they are not much better than the IDPs. This is a very poor area."
Since intense fighting between Ethiopian-backed government troops and insurgents began in February, at least 1,000 people have been reportedly killed and more than 300,000 displaced.
Meanwhile, four people were killed when unknown persons threw a grenade into a cinema in the town on Tuesday night.
"We are investigating and looking for the perpetrators," Hassan said.
He said the incident was not politically motivated. "It has more to do with rivalry than anything else," he added.