Our office in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and a network of partners have continued to monitor population movements inside Somalia and now estimate that up to 90,000 Somalis may have returned to Mogadishu mainly from the Shabelle and Bay regions of south and central Somalia. This figure represents just over 23 percent of the 391,000 Somalis estimated to have fled from Mogadishu since February this year.
Many of those returning to Mogadishu have gone back to areas such as Waberi, Xamar, Jab-Jab and Medina districts which were not affected by the various rounds of fighting between the Transitional Federal Government forces backed by Ethiopian troops and insurgents. Partners describe the return movements as a trickle. Living conditions in Mogadishu however remain difficult for returnees as well as for those who stayed in the capital throughout the conflict. Mogadishu remains without electricity and running water. Sanitation is a major concern as garbage remains uncollected in many neighbourhoods in the city. People complain that they have lost their means of livelihood. Former roadside traders, for example, complain that their business structures have been demolished by authorities who say these structures are a security threat. In many areas, schools have remained closed.
On Tuesday, UNHCR joined a UN team consisting of OCHA, UNICEF, WHO and UN Security on a two-day visit to Mogadishu to look at possibilities of bringing more aid to needy populations in Mogadishu. The team held meetings with the Transitional Federal Government as well as with civil society and implementing partners to agree on ways of reaching the needy. The assistance targetting some 300,000 people in Mogadishu would be part of a one-time aid package to help people settle back into the war-torn capital. In April, UNHCR distributed aid supplies to some 50,000 displaced Somalis living in Afgoye and surrounding areas. Together with aid delivered by other organisations, the short-term needs for shelter and basic household supplies for nearly 70 percent of those displaced outside Mogadishu were met.
Even as small numbers of people trickle back to Mogadishu, hundreds of thousands of others remain in various regions of Somalia such as Bay, Galgaduud, Mudug and Hiran. There are reports of further displacement of people living along the Shabelle river which has overflowed destroying shelters and crops. Many displaced people remain reluctant to return to Mogadishu. Among them are people who were previously displaced inside Mogadishu and lived for nearly 16 years in public buildings that have now been re-possessed by the government. Some of those displaced earlier from Mogadishu now say they have nowhere to return to in the capital, others are fearful for their safety and prefer to wait and see how the situation unfolds. Some of the displaced say they would like to return but they do not have money for transport back to Mogadishu. In some cases, returnees have had to wait for up to three days for transport.