More than 6 000 families, mostly women and children, have fled the fighting in Las Anod to Kalabeyd district, located 32km to the northeast in the past two months.
Insecurity in the area and ongoing heavy fighting have ravaged the town and displaced people in their thousands.
The majority of those displaced are children, women, pregnant and lactating mothers, the elderly, and persons with serious medical conditions. Visibly traumatised, they have been forced to start a new life as internally displaced persons (IDPs), far from the life they have known and in an environment they hardly know.
Most are yet to come to terms with the new reality. Zainab Abdi, 50 and a mother of eight, is among those forced to flee their homes in Las Anod.
“After looking at my house for the last time, a place I always called home, I rushed to the bedroom to collect whatever I could and we immediately headed out into the unknown, with no idea of what lay ahead of us. All I wanted was to get to safety.”
The memory of that day evokes both anger and despair. She cannot understand how her fortunes have changed in an instant; one day, she is home with her children and the next she is running for her life.
“The day we fled will forever be etched in my mind. We ran away with nothing much but the clothes on our backs.”
Zainab, some of her children, and three other families share what used to be a classroom. The living conditions in the school are challenging; the rooms are small, dilapidated and fragile. Most of the newly arrived families in Kalabeyd have sheltered in schools and other public buildings such police stations and Qur’anic schools. Others are staying in the open.
“The only saving grace here is that we have plenty of water. No one would have survived without it. During our first week here, life was extremely hard, we had no help and the little water there had to be rationed,” she says. Through its local partners, UNICEF is supplying water to the IDPs in Kalabeyd. These supplies have helped the IDPs to access safe water and prevent disease outbreaks.
“Everyday life here goes by very slowly for me. There is nothing to do other than reminiscing about how life was back home. Living here is very difficult. I wish I could return home.
I miss feeling safe and secure. We are living in a state of constant fear and caution. We pray to Allah every day to keep us all safe and so that one day, we can go back to our homes,” she says.
UNICEF and its partners have initiated emergency water trucking activities that will go on for 45 days, reaching close to 6 000 households.