Three tales of Mogadishu: violence, a booming economy and now famine

Somalias capital is buzzing: estate agents prosper and it recently hosted a TedX conference. But Mogadishu is facing a fresh objection as drought armies half a million people to strive assist. Jason Burke inspects a growing camp on the outskirts

Friday afternoon and the light is low-neck in the various regions of the ripples breaking on the long coast. Behind the pocked and pitted seafront promenade, hundreds of children play-act football among their shattered homes. This, the wreckings of the old port region of Somalias Mogadishu, is the war-torn metropoli of the news stories, journals and films.

Less than a 10 minute drive away down a newly rebuilt doubled roadway, the incident is quite different: hundreds of young men and women stroll along the narrow band of sand left by the high tide; they paddle, swimming and booze coffee or soft drinks in cafe. An ancient stretch limousine, hired out for bridals , noses through trafficking in human beings. Rickshaw drivers shout for fares.

There are two sides to Mogadishu. The frightful side and then there is this, says Abdirahman Omar Osman Yarisow, Somalias newly appointed information minister, who is sitting at a table in the Beachview hotel on the famous Lido watching the relaxed Friday afternoon crowds.

Relaxed crowds enjoy Mogadishus Lido. Photograph: Jason Burke for the Guardian

There are few metropolis with compares as stark as those of Mogadishu. It is six years since the Islamic militants of al-Shabaab retire from streets battered by 20 years of incessant warfare. But daily violence is a reminder that the group is still a formidable menace if it is restricted to rural zones. Mortar eggshells kill children. Assistance convoy are been struck by roadside bombs. Politicians are shot dead in the street. Gunmen raid military camps and hotels while two suicide bombers assault seafood eateries on the Lido.

The place next door got hit but nobody is bothered. Were always busy. We dont worry, says Abdi Fata Jama, the 29 -year-old manager of the Beachview hotel.

Despite the ongoing violence, their own economies is develop, hundreds of expatriates are returning from the west or African commonwealths, scores of colleges are opening to cater for the phenomenally young population and there is growing investment from the diaspora. Estate agents thrive. A two-storey mansion can cost nearly 100,000. Mogadishu just hosted a TedX conference.

In the centre of the city, a brand-new Peace Park equipped with a bouncy castle, swings, a football pitch and benches is thronged at weekends and nights when temperatures dip.

Somalis are very brave, extremely resilient. No one can change when they are to die. So they reject the problems and the city is booming and moving on, says Yarisow.

The consequence of a detonation in a market in Mogadishu in February, which killed more than a dozen people. Photograph: Farah Abdi Warsameh/ AP

The situation is very fragile

But Mogadishu, already one of the fastest growing metropolis in “the worlds”, is about to undergo another massive transformation that will bring another great challenge.

Somalias arid countryside is facing famine a consequence of the worst drought for 40 years and the ongoing insurgency. More than half a million people are already on the move, striving food, ocean, shelter and medical care. Around 100,000 have already reached Mogadishu, with more arriving every day. Assistance officials panic the numbers will rise if rainwaters do not come next month, with a million people potentially striving sanctuary in Somalias metropolis by the years end.

Such numbers may overwhelm efforts by the government and the international community. Save the Children, the international charity, are scaling up activities in Somalia to render basic assistance to over two million people including 70,000 in Mogadishu. The situation is very fragile, says Hassan Noor, the country administrator. United nations organization officials are planning a major distribution.

At one camp on the suburbs of Mogadishu, the extent of the problem is clear. Already home to around 6,000 people, the cramp plenty of tents and shelters had received more than 700 new arrivals in two days earlier this month. Food provided by Save the Children is running out.

We cant cope. Were short of shelter, personnel for prepare, fuel, everything. These people have borrowed, asked or sold to get the funds to get here. They arrive with good-for-nothing. And they are weak. Some of the kids are dying on the road, says Zara Ali Mahamud, the 29 -year-old camp manager.

Barwako Aden Berda, who walked for three days to reach Mogadishu with her five-month-old twins and daughters aged eight and 10. Photograph: Jason Burke for the Guardian

Cholera and similar infections are killing thousands in rural Somalia, and those fleeing remote villages can spread infection in metropolis too; 19 instances have been recorded in the camp.

There is likely to be thousands[ of people] coming in the next weeks. We require help. If it doesnt come, it is simple: people will die, says Mahamud.

The relief effort also suffers from the endemic violence. Al-Shabaab systematically targets international humanitarian workers. A escort from the Nations development programme was hit by a roadside bomb near the camps entering, a day after the Defender visit.

The influx could disturb the fragile process of reconstruction in Mogadishu, placing massive stress on the few basic services available to its 2 million inhabitants, and posing a long-term security threat.

Officials admit the areas around Mogadishu are a no males property, and say it is impossible for police or government officials to enter at least two communities of the city knows how strongholds of support for al-Shabaab. Even the heavily defended international airfield where thousands of envoys, United nations organization staff and regional troops from the African Union stabilisation force are based is frequently attacked.

People walk through Daru Salaam city, a brand-new dwelling property in north Mogadishu. Photograph: Mohamed Abdiwahab/ AFP/ Getty Images

Mogadishu is already is difficult to absorb a previous influx from the countryside. Hundreds of thousands have moved to the city in recent years, many driven from their villages by the last famine in 2011. Most live in vast villages, surviving on assistance and odd chores. Preconditions are tough, and there are concerns that with massive numbers of young, unemployed, rootless guys, such camps are fertile floor for extremism.

However, few contemplate returning home soon.

There is no livestock , no food, so its very difficult. We would need a bulldozer to clear our ground of trees and shrub now. So well stay here, says 43 -year-old Faduma Yusuf Gadi, from a small village nearly 250 miles from Mogadishu, who has lived with her six children in Shabelle camp for four years.

Experts say the instance of other urban centres in Africa shows the rapid growth of Mogadishu and other Somali metropolis could stimulation economic transformation but simply with careful management and a brand-new infusion of international aid.

The massive shift into urban areas can be an opportunity. It is the way of the future, it is what needs to be done to build a different economy, a different country. But that needs massive investment, says Michael Keating, the UN special representative in Somalia.

The current is calling for funds to meet immediate humanitarian needs in Somalia aims to raise nearly$ 1bn( 770 m ). Keating believes a similar summarize will be needed to cope with the consequences of the current crisis.

Yarisow, the information minister, grew up in Mogadishu. He returned in 2008 after many years in London, with much of the embattled metropoli under the authority of al-Shabaab. That, he says, was a bad time.

So much has changed. There is a huge difference. Now is the best time. We know the international community will help us, but basically it corresponds to Somalis to do this, and to do it on our own, he says.

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